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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

You Can Tour Milwaukee’s First Eco-Neighborhood: Lindsay Heights

City leaders want to create a buzz around sustainability initiatives that have blossomed in Milwaukee’s Lindsay Heights neighborhood. There’s even a map encouraging people to tour its sustainable projects, including rooftop solar and stormwater management installations.

Just 10 minutes northwest of downtown, Lindsay Heights was named Milwaukee’s first Eco-Neighborhood in September 2018. But Lindsay Heights residents were thinking about sustainability long before the title was bestowed. The first visible symbol of change was the rebirth of a building just off North Avenue on 17th Street.

Credit City of Milwaukee ECO

The first visible symbol of change was the rebirth of a building just off North Avenue on 17th Street. It used to be a boarding home.

“Then it was boarded up and the city had plans to tear it down. So, neighbors came together and decided to restore the center into a neighborhood center,” Erica Heisdorf Bisquerra says.

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The building is now the Walnut Way Center, and Heisdorf is the center's communication manager. Walnut Way is located in the heart of Lindsay Heights and is a leader in sustainable initiatives.

“They started with kids in the neighborhood by planting tulips ... and so that what a symbol of that renewal and to show people that this is a space that is cared for,” Heisdorf

Tulips transitioned to vegetable gardens and orchards. And Walnut Way wasn’t just growing food, but jobs too.

“We now have Blue Skies Landscaping, which is commercial and private contracts and they’re really specializing in green infrastructure,” Heisdorf says.

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Credit Susan Bence
Crew leader Henry Hopkins (center) and fellow Blue Skies Landscaping members at Lindsay Heights celebration.

At a recent rainy event to celebrate Lindsay Heights eco designation, Henry Hopkins said he used to contribute to his neighborhood’s problems, not its solutions. Hopkins now works for Blue Skies and was recently promoted to crew leader.

“I was one of the gentlemen that helped bring down the neighborhood. I was selling drugs, doing a lot of destructive things in the neighborhood. So, I decided to make something of myself,” Hopkins adds, “Right now, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself.”

READ: National Organization Fuels Walnut Way's Sustainable Neighborhood Initiatives

Terrell Morgan comes to the Lindsay Heights story from a different angle.

“I actually grew up around the corner off 20th & Center for a few years. So, my mom and I walked to Gautz grocery store and there used to be a Church’s Chicken back in the day,” Morgan says.

Those are distant memories. But as Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Officestarted puzzling out how to tell Lindsay Height’s sustainability story through signs and a map, the team asked Morgan to add his design skills.

“I am the creator of the branding in conjunction with Walnut Way and ECO Milwaukee, creating the icons and also the actual EcoTour logo,” Morgan says.

Credit Susan Bence
Terrell Morgan (standing) chats with customers in the Tandem's backyard patio, which features porous pavers. Its porous pavers are highlighted in the Lindsay Heights EcoTour.

The Lindsay Heights EcoTour tour features 11 sites. Some highlights include an orchard where apple and pear trees grow. Also,The Tandem restaurant on Fond Du Lac Avenue. Its patio features permeable pavers. So when it rains, water soaks in instead of streaming into the sewer system.

Morgan and the others who masterminded this walk through Lindsay Heights' sustainability story hope visitors will take the 0.9 mile EcoTour and be inspired. You can see the official tour map here or view the below interactive map that highlights the stops.

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Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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