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Bronzeville Week Focuses on Once Thriving Neighborhood

Marti Mikkelson

Milwaukee has been summoning attention this week to its Bronzeville neighborhood.

It’s located in the heart of the central city and was once a thriving area. It was loaded with shops and jobs – not to mention popular, live music.

Bronzeville week features trolley tours of the neighborhood and a resource fair for interested businesses. As I approach 6th and North, I see what the planners hope to revitalize. There are loads of vacant lots, along with boarded up homes and former businesses.

I stopped at the Northcott Neighborhood House and met Project Manager Tony Kearney. We walked to one of the bright spots in the area. A couple dozen young black men are rehabbing homes.

“Here at the corner of 5th and Wright, we have two single family units going up that will be sold to low income families. The homes are being built by a group of young men, 16 to 24 years old, who are neighborhood kids who are in our Youth Build and Fresh Start programs,” Kearney says.

Kearney laments the neighborhood’s losses. He says it declined during the recession of the 1980s when manufacturing jobs withered. Kearney says he appreciates this week’s effort to call attention to the neighborhood and says its most important need is jobs.

“I think our alderman is trying her best to make some stuff happen but it’s an uphill battle because funding is going to be allocated to other areas especially with the high crime rate in the city of Milwaukee over the past month,” Kearney says.

Credit Marti Mikkelson
Vacant buildings surround the Just Jazz nightclub on 6th and North

Yet, Kearney says Bronzeville is a neighborhood that doesn’t give up. His organization has spent the past 52 years there, doing what it can to boost the lives of thousands who live there.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.