Thursday, May 14, 2009

Controversial Near South Side Plan Heads To Zoning Committee

Historic Mitchell, National and Lincoln business districts seen as mix commercial, but the plan failed to acknowledge the present Latino businesses or to enhance their growth along these corridors

By H. Nelson Goodson
May 14, 2009

Milwaukee – On May 19, planners of the proposed Near South Side Comprehensive Area Plan will be presenting their plan to the City Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. Their plan encourages Latino businesses throughout the district to cluster on the existing Cesar E. Chavez Drive Business Improvement District. The Historic Mitchell St., National Ave., and Lincoln Village business areas have their own district plans, and planners envision retail growth. However, they fell short on recognizing many of the existing Hispanic businesses along these business corridors, or build upon their current success and growth.
The economic strength of the South Side business districts has been the predominately Latino residents who reside along and around the districts. The plan identifies the area as “racial and ethnic diversity as an asset, but can also create some challenges.” The South Side and its neighborhoods have faced many challenges, and have over come them without the need of this type of plan, according to several area residents. The planners also wrote, “the area is home to many new immigrants some are legal and some are illegal.” But did not mention that many of the immigrants are tax paying residents and property owners on the South Side.
A Latin Quarter has been proposed on along S. 5th St. from West National Ave. to West Pierce St., but planners were divided on the issue with some of them preferring it on Cesar E. Chavez Drive. The Latin Quarter remains in limbo.
The 2nd Street corridor extends from approximately the Milwaukee River on the north, to W. Orchard Street on the south. Demand for commercial districts, the plan identifies 1st Street and 2nd Street as a main corridor ideal for lofts, and traditional storefronts within the rapidly developing area. Walker’s Point would be ideal for an array of housing options, diverse businesses and a concentration of cultural and entertainment destinations that would draw people from the region. But the plan does not focus on family oriented environment, housing, recreation or entertainment.
Silver City Main Street district located on West National and South 35 St., planners are recommending to build upon the area’s existing businesses with International and Asian goods; and encourage the development of an Asian market within Silver City.
The predominately Hispanic South Side district is one of the primary districts for generating tax revenue, including fees for licenses, permits, violations, etc., for the City of Milwaukee. The plan cites, “the Near South Side consistently showed signs of robust investment, business, and property value growth. Between 2002 and 2006, sales price per building square foot increased each year and rose from $39 per square foot to $61 per square foot. The annual value of all construction investments increased from $37.8 million to $124.1 million and averaged $56.3 million. The value of land per square foot for residential, commercial, mixed, and industrial use increased and exceeded that for the City of Milwaukee as a whole,” according to the plan market study.
The planners include the consulting firm of HNTB, Department of City Development planners, the Contract Management Team, and funding partners that donated at least $75,000 for the study. The plan is not too friendly to temporary job agencies and auto car dealerships that sell affordable vehicles to the local residents. The planners propose green areas and residential redevelopment in place of local auto dealerships; especially, near and around the triangle corridors of South 19th, West Becher, and West Forest Home.
The planners are promoting through advocacy and the coordination of existing community-based programs to continue to provide employment training for the under educated labor force by local community based organizations (CBO’s). The plan suggests placing a technical college satellite campus in a neighborhood-shopping district similar to other cities. The employment training by CBO’s would help replace temporary job agencies and provide employment opportunities.
However, no studies were conducted to encourage local high schools to work along with local businesses and area universities to create college bound studies and provided funding for students to enroll in perspective colleges.
The plan mentions the growing need to meet housing needs in the South Side, and to protect current residents from displacement through gentrification. The plan calls for community leaders and the City to establish a Community Land Trust (CLT) in the South Side. However, to protect residents from displacement through gentrification was just a recommendation by the planners, instead of making sure the City Plan Commission, the Department of City Development, the City Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee, and the Milwaukee Common Council establish city legislation or ordinances assuring safe guards to prevent gentrification in Milwaukee.
The planners have been criticized for not having the plan in both Spanish and English, and for not reaching out to local residents. Former Deputy Director of Governor Jim Doyle’s office in Milwaukee, Ernesto Chacon said on Monday, he too was not notified or invited by the planners to participate in the Near South Side Plan while he worked for the governor. Chacon retired a year ago, and lives in the targeted plan area.
A Spanish version of the plan was not available before the City Plan Commission approved the plan on April 20th. But recently, the Department of City Development sent out an email that the plan’s summary is now in both English and Spanish, and is available by visiting the DCD website.
The Near South Side Plan now goes before the Zoning, Neighborhoods, and Development Committee, on May 19, at 9:00 a.m. in Room 301 B, City Hall, 200 E. Wells St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Area residents are encouraged to attend and express their concerns about any items on the proposed plan.

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