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Local Leaders Push For More Financial Investment In Milwaukee's Latino Community

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Chuck Quirmbach
/
WUWM
Part of the Lincoln Village neighborhood on Milwaukee's south side.

The City of Milwaukee is encouraging more real estate development projects in largely Latino neighborhoods. And a Hispanic group is trying to help developers who are Latino, with new funding.

Newly-released census data – which may still be challenged – show the numbers of Black and white residents in the city of Milwaukee went down over the last decade. But Hispanic residents had the largest increase of any group, and now make up about one-fifth of the city's population.

The growth is not lost on Milwaukee Department of City Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump. He said there's been financial investment in some Latino neighborhoods in recent decades. But he's trying to get developers interested in more areas.

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Chuck Quirmbach
Milwaukee Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump speaks at the Urbano conference Thursday.

Thursday, as Hispanic Heritage Month was getting underway, Crump spoke to an annual real estate conference called Urbano – which had as its theme "Building Milwaukee Latino Strong."

Crump said one of the city's next "hot markets" could be Lincoln Village.

"Over on 6th and Lincoln," Crump told the audience. "A lot of mixed-use buildings. Historic architecture that is really inviting and creates an opportunity to do some interesting things on the interior of those buildings. You've got a lot of single-family homes and duplexes over there, ranging from $100,000-150,000."

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Chuck Quirmbach
The Clarke Square area of West National Ave. in Milwaukee.

Crump also promotes National Avenue between 1st and 39th streets, and Historic Mitchell Street.

He also saids developers interested in the Latino population growth should consider neighborhoods where the city expects more Latinos to move into in the coming decade. Crump said that includes the Jackson Park area near south 35th Street.

Crump also highlighted an area farther southwest, in Milwaukee neighborhoods near 76th and Oklahoma. "This is an area that has a number of smaller-scale, multi-family apartment buildings, single-family homes," Crump said. "A real pattern of commercial shopping areas as well. So, there's an opportunity there to envision and figure out what that area is going to look like over the next several years."

According to the Census Bureau, across Wisconsin, the Hispanic population grew by about a third, though it remains less than 10% of the state.

Many other states saw growth as well. Ana Valdez, of the California-based Latino Donor Collaborative, told the conference that, put together, U.S. Latinos have more financial clout than most nations.

Valdez then quoted billionaire businessman Steve Forbes, from a few years ago, discussing President Donald Trump.

"Forbes is a good friend of the organization," Valdez said. "He said, 'I love Trump, he's my friend. But I completely disagree with him on immigration' because, said Steve Forbes, Latinos are the cavalry coming to America's economic rescue. And they have been, after every crisis.'"

Valdez then added her own advice to the audience: "So, why am I saying this to you? If you don't act on it, somebody else will. This is a competitive edge thing."

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Chuck Quirmbach
The Urbano 2021 conference at Marquette University on Thursday. Ricardo Diaz (at podium) served as emcee.

The push for more investment in Latino neighborhoods pleases Ricardo Diaz, who has had a three-decade view of Milwaukee, including time as the city's development commissioner and a lengthy period running the United Community Center on the near south side. Now retired, Diaz said local Latinos face many challenges and disparities, but also have much to offer.

"We've been telling this story for 30 years. The demographics bear it up. It's growth. It's natural growth through birth, not immigration," Diaz said. "So there's nothing to fear. This is a population that is can do, it's about being tomorrow is a better day. My children are going to do better even better than I did. We're graduating our kids."

Diaz said to attract investment from other parts of the metro area, he urges Latinos to keep telling their story.

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Chuck Quirmbach
During the Urbano conference, Milwaukee Development Commissioner Crump praised the owners of El Señorial restaurant (shown here at 31st & Burnham location) for choosing to expand locally.

But a local group, the Hispanic Collaborative, says it's also time to provide more financial help to developers who are Latino. The group announced this week the beginning of a Hispanic Equity Fund, with a goal of raising ten million dollars. The Collaborative's Ivan Gamboa said the investor-driven fund would help Latino developers who lack capital.

"You know, other developers might have the resources ready to start a project. A lot of our folks in the community have good ideas, but they just don't have the money in their pocket to complete it," Gamboa told WUWM.

Collaborative President Nancy Hernandez said having a bigger group of successful Latino developers would also help eliminate a blind spot.

"Existing folks in the development space are blind to some of those opportunities, because they don't have same connection, that view. That same understanding of the need, and what economically is feasible and viable there," Hernandez said.

The Hispanic Collaborative hopes to start getting the financing to developers by next year.

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