Empty lots on Milwaukee north side likely to see redevelopment

Encouraging news came from Tom Daykin’s “Land And Space” blog, which, by the way, is my favorite part of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online content. The story ran as a regular article in the print edition, telling us that Dane County property development corporation Gorman & Co. seeks to purchase some forty lots from the City of Milwaukee. With those in hand, the company plans to build affordable housing upon them.

According to Daykin’s article, “the lots… are in the Metcalfe Park and North Division neighborhoods on the north side,” which is probably Milwaukee’s single “worst” area. The opportunity to sell the lots “will be reviewed Friday by the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee.”

Looking at the City’s web site, I see that committee is made up by Ald. James N. Witkowiak, Chair; Ald. Willie C. Wade, Vice Chair; Ald. Michael J. Murphy; Ald. Robert J. Bauman; and the man who would like to be the next Lieutenant Governor, Ald. Tony Zielinski. (He’s also my alderman.)

Let’s look at some details we can see from the article:

“Gorman & Co. wants to buy 40 vacant central city lots for $1 each, on which it would build homes that would be rented to families earning below the Milwaukee area’s median income.”

$1 each! Wow. Well, how much is that land worth nowadays? I’ll try to look at the property tax assessment later. If it would only cost $1, what’s top stop community gardening groups from buying up the land that cheap? (A lot of things, actually. It can be done, with a plan. And a length plan that would be.)

I think the City should ask for a little more than just $40 for the total sale, but then, this could bring future revenue for the City. Such is the cost of doing business, and may be worth it considering that currently, those empty lots are a blight for the City and its People.

“The lots are in areas bounded by N. 27th to N. 30th streets and W. Meinecke Ave. to W. Center St., and N. 8th to N. 11th streets, and W. Center St. to W. Locust St.”

As I said, that is probably Milwaukee’s single “worst” area, which most people think means crime, but also includes chronic poverty and availability of healthy food.

That said, I’ve had no problems when I’ve gone up there for the annual Daddy/Daughter Dance at North Division High School. (And then went home.) To me, it looks like there’s just not much going on up there. But I see lots of opportunity for redevelopment with community gardens and affordable housing.

“Gorman plans to eventually sell the homes after 15 years of renting. The firm in 2007 and 2008 developed 30 houses in a similar program on the north side.”

“Other affordable housing project proposals in Milwaukee include Gorman’s plans for 60 apartments at W. Atkinson Ave. and N. 16th St., and 64 apartments and 14 rental homes at the former Jackie Robinson Middle School, 3245 N. 37th St.”

This tells me that they’re committed to doing something with the land. Assuming they built quality housing, that’s good. And goodness knows, we need that on the north side.

Committee members, make it so.

Update: The plan fell through. Discouraging, but at least it’s being thought of.

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.

2 thoughts on “Empty lots on Milwaukee north side likely to see redevelopment”

    1. Fine point. Given what will eventually be made (hopefully) will more than compensate for the low sale price. Given that they’re not generating any revenue right now, I’m all for it.

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