I remember hearing Mayor Barrett remark that someone once told him that “I only see you at ribbon cuttings!” with the implication that the mayor did nothing but cut ribbons on new developments. Barrett said he was glad to be at ribbon cuttings, as that meant there was new development, which was critical to the life of the city.
It must please the mayor that he could be at a ribbon cutting on the empty ground where the great freeways that were planned in the 1950s and huge swaths of houses were demolished throughout the city of Milwaukee. Interstate 43 went through, but not every portion was built. There is no lakefront freeway, and the northwest-bound freeway that would have consumed Fond du Lac Avenue was not built.
However, we can still see the legacy of the freeway plan. Zooming in on the area around W. Garfield Avenue and N. 23rd Street, you can easily spot several large barren and empty areas. This was the legacy of the freeway project. “Urban renewal” at its finest.
The good news is that at last, ten acres around 23rd and Garfield are being redeveloped. Thanks to Legacy Bank, owner-occupied single-family homes are coming in, with at least one on the ground and three more being built. The new Legacy neighborhood is adjacent to the Lindsay Heights neighborhood, which is finding its way through urban gardens and community involvement. May it become the newest and brightest neighborhood in Milwaukee, our city of neighborhoods.
WUWM-FM has an exciting story on the topic.