Throughout the month of May, neighborhoods around the country are hostings events called “Jane’s Walks.” The walks honor the work of the late Jane Jacobs, an advocate for the needs of everyday people in urban planning. The walks are citizen-led and are aimed at spurring conversations about the neighborhoods and the people who live in them.
Ten years ago, it would have been unlikely to imagine a Jane’s Walk happening in Westlawn Gardens. The public housing project was more than 50 years old, and had long since passed its ideal as a vibrant community. But Tuesday, the revitalized Westlawn Gardens will host a Jane’s Walk, in part to show the world what the neighborhood on Milwaukee’s northwest side has become.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the neighborhood has been completely transformed by the recent changes. "It had very much an institutional feel. Very, very much a cookie cutter approach... Now you come here and this is a neighborhood."
He continues, "That's part of the goal is to break down the barriers between the people who live here and the people who live in the surrounding neighborhoods, so that you don't have this sense that you're entering a place that's different."
The project was recently honored with a national planning award from the American Planning Association, but parts of it have yet to reopen to residents.
Jackie Burrell, president of the Westlawn Resident Council, says the homes were plagued with issues before the renovation. She experienced issues with flooding, among other things, but says the new homes offer a lot of new amenities for residents - including a newly designed playground and community garden.
"Now we have a lovely development. I love it, appreciate it, and can't wait to get back," says Burrell.
Paul Williams is the Choice Neighborhood Initiative Coordinator and Warren Jones is the vice president of construction for the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, and they joined Burrell and Barrett on the tour of the Westlawn Gardens redevelopment.