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Monday, March 10, 2014

Embracing and Revitalizing Milwaukee’s West Side

Off The Cuff with Keith Stanley

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Image is everything. For Milwaukee native Keith Stanley, executive director of Avenues West Association (the neighborhood west of Downtown Milwaukee), the mission is to change the perception of an area known for its low-income housing and notable safety issues. Once an elementary student at St. Rose (now St. Rose and St. Leo Catholic Urban Academy), his civic roots continue to run deep. Off The Cuff wondered how he plans to revitalize a struggling neighborhood so dear to his heart yet so low on the totem pole of places to go in Milwaukee.

 

What is the Avenues West neighborhood like? 

The neighborhood has seen, and is continuing to see, an increase in development activity with both current and future proposals on the table. Last year, there was a ribbon cutting for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families State Building on 27th and Wisconsin that added 200-plus employees. And although crime has seen a dramatic decrease in the past decade, we still work to manage the perception and deal with the reality of crime in the neighborhood. 

On the positive side, the Avenues West neighborhood is home to several important institutions, light industrial and retail businesses, churches, schools and residential areas. Some of our legacy institutions and businesses include the Five O’clock Steak House, Ambassador Hotel, AT&T, Marquette University, Pabst Mansion, the Rave, Redeemer Lutheran Church and many more.

 

How do you change the perception and make this community thrive?

The market will have a big influence on this neighborhood; however, high-quality housing is key. In addition to engaging some of the local employees to consider this neighborhood as a residential option, we want to attract a diverse retail mix. Both the Business Improvement District and the Association have great boards of directors that represent many stakeholders with a commitment to the community. They are valuable resources.  

And the academic community has been great. Marquette University, Milwaukee Area Technical College and UW-Milwaukee have contributed over the years to Avenues West. In addition, our local members and businesses have done an outstanding job in providing resources for this community. Ambassador Hotel, Catholic Financial Life, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Pabst Mansion, Forest County Potawatomi and many more have led the way in supporting the mission of Avenues West Association.

 

What does the future look like for this community? 

It is our goal to begin to assist in making the neighborhood a brand of its own that people associate with the many successes of our local businesses. The future for Avenues West includes high-quality housing and retail development, infrastructure improvements including both 27th Street and Wisconsin Avenue and marketing/branding initiatives. For those who are familiar with the area, I am hoping they will take another look. For those who are not, it may be worth a visit. Avenues West has some great attractions and resources. This is a place where you can really look at living, working and playing.