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Art Lot On Milwaukee's East Side Will Create More Public Outdoor Space

Liz Brodek
East Side Business Improvement District
This underutilized city parking lot along North Avenue on Milwaukee's East Side will transform into an art lot to create more outdoor space for people to use.

As restaurants and businesses in Milwaukee enforce capacity limits, many are using their outdoor spaces. But what if a business is on a busy street with few options for sending patrons outside?

The East Side Business Improvement District(BID) is finding new ways to add extended outdoor seating for businesses and residents to use safely. For example, the BID is transforming an underutilized city-owned parking lot at 1915 East North Ave., between Von Trier and Beans and Barley, into the East Side Art Lot.

Increased outdoor seating has become crucial in helping businesses succeed during the pandemic, says East Side BID executive director Liz Brodek. 

"I think what we're seeing is just kind of a lot of places turning inside out," notes Brodek. "This could be the start of something really amazing and be a really great spark and catalyst for the area."

The BID also received a grant to AARP's Small Dollar Big Impact fund, which will be used to buy picnic tables for the lot that local artists will paint. The call for artists to paint the picnic tables is open until Aug. 6. Money raised will also go toward supplies for artists, sanitation, and maintenance of the site.

For Brodek, being able to pay artists is a key factor in supporting their community.

"[We're] able to provide another way of having artists make at least a slight living or allow them to practice their craft while being paid for it in an environment right now where it's really hard to do that," she says.

The East Side BID itself is made up of over 100 small and locally-owned businesses that choose to tax themselves an additional amount to support and elevate the area. Brodek says this community, despite the struggles business owners are currently facing, is still enthusiastically supporting each other. 

"Knowing that we have people who have each others' backs and who want to see each other succeed — you can't ask for more than that," she says.

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Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.