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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Change Coming to Bay View

Kinnickinnic Avenue will get a makeover

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Kinnickinnic Avenue, Bay View
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Tensions rose last week as the Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) #44 approved a $350,000 plan to revitalize Bay View’s main commercial corridor with improved crosswalks, planters and gateway signage, with detractors claiming that they were paying for half of the project yet had no input on the matter.

The proposed streetscape plan is a scaled-back version of a $600,000 plan that included raised planters on sidewalks, which could have blocked pedestrian traffic and car doors.

The BID’s $175,000 loan can be paid off within the district’s current assessments, said John Toutenhoofd of Quigley Tax Service, the BID’s treasurer. The city of Milwaukee will provide a $175,000 matching grant.

The BID’s board president, Jason Wedesky, owner of Actaea Works spa on Kinnickinnic Avenue, said the plan was based on three public meetings, plus surveys of businesses in the district conducted by the BID and by the Bay View Neighborhood Association. He said the project addresses concerns about pedestrian safety, neighborhood cohesiveness and attractiveness and incorporates feedback from member businesses.

“I think it’s a great beginning,” Wedesky said. “It will help the neighborhood’s businesses be more competitive.”

While the plan was approved on a 5-1 vote last Tuesday, the 15 members of the audience weren’t so pleased with how the BID’s board handled the KK Avenue upgrades. The June 11 meeting was informational-only, with public votes on the streetscape plan and bylaw changes after the board met behind closed doors. Audience members shouted out questions for the board members, who for the most part tried to ignore them. Three neighborhood police officers attended, although they didn’t have to resolve any conflicts.

 

‘Respecting the Process’

At the end of the meeting, new board member Jake Provan, representing the owner of the building that houses Café Centraal on Lincoln and Kinnickinnic, defused much of the tension by talking about his experience with the Downer Avenue BID, which underwrote major improvements to that neighborhood.

BID critic David Brazeau, co-owner of Salon Thor, said he wasn’t opposed to the scaled-down streetscape plan per se, but he isn’t happy with the Bay View businesses’ lack of input on the BID. Brazeau has been at odds with the board over its purchase of security cameras and the lack of BID benefits for businesses, including his, that are located between Oklahoma and Morgan avenues, the southern-most end of the 2 ½-mile district. He’s hoping that the streetscape improvements start at the southern end of Kinnickinnic and work their way up to Becher Street, the northern tip of the BID.

“We have no say in this,” Brazeau told the Shepherd. “They just want our money.”

All business improvement districts in the city assess its members a separate fee for projects. But only the appointed board members, who are confirmed by the mayor, vote on matters in the publicly noticed meetings. 

BID Board President Wedesky told the Shepherd that it’s fairly common for a “small but vocal minority” to voice their criticisms of the BID’s operations.

“Our goal is to represent the district as a whole,” Wedesky said.

The neighborhood’s alderman, Tony Zielinski, didn’t attend last week’s meeting, but he told the Shepherd he was aware of the tensions among some of the Bay View businesses and some BID board members, even though a number of anchor businesses support the streetscape plan.

Zielinski said the board is using procedures used by every other BID in the city.

“I have to respect the process that the whole city follows,” Zielinski said.

He said he’s taken a hands-off approach to the BID since launching it four years ago, but he may try to resolve the conflicts plaguing the all-volunteer board and a few Kinnickinnic Avenue businesses.

“I’m going to try to bring all the parties together,” Zielinski told the Shepherd.

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