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City Leaders Try Charette Method to Revitalize Milwaukee's Bronzeville

Marti Mikkelson

In hopes of jump-starting Milwaukee's Bronzeville neighborhood, leaders held a day-long brainstorming session.

Bronzeville has suffered a prolonged economic downturn, ever since manufacturing jobs dried up in the 1980s.

On Monday, about 100 planners and visionaries assembled in a large conference room at UWM’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Six architectural firms presented plans for Bronzeville.

Brian Miller, president of Miller Architectural Group, told those gathered that his company wants to develop residential and office space, near 6th Street and North Avenue. The centerpiece would be a winter garden. “It would be a multi-function space where there could be a demountable-type stage so you could have performances there,” Miller says.

Ald. Milele Coggs helped organize the event. Her district covers Bronzeville. She describes the intense dialogue as encouraging.

“We’ve done RFPs, requests for proposals for specific parcels of land, and we’ve had countless public meetings, but to actually sit down with developers, lenders, stakeholders, neighborhoods, everybody to get input and do some final presentations, I don’t think anything of this magnitude has been tried,” Coggs says.

Coggs says this past summer, she attended a charette for the King Drive corridor in Milwaukee, and it sparked five new projects for the area. Milwaukee Development Director Rocky Marcoux says it was just the latest.

“The Zilber neighborhood plans were done using a similar process. We’ve done this in the 30th Street corridor to establish the plan for the former Tower Automotive site so it’s a fairly common practice that yields a very strong result,” Marcoux says.

One person who listened to Monday’s presentations is Kalan Haywood. He owns the Inner City Arts Council building on 7th Street and North Avenue. Haywood says he revamped the former firehouse into office space a few years ago and now it’s thriving. He’s confident it’ll help nudge the dominos.

“Developers are like cows, you have to get the first one in the barn. Once the first one is in the barn, the rest will follow. I hope that our building was a start,” Haywood says.

The representatives who participated in the Bronzeville charette will meet again to tweak the plans and recommend which the city should advance.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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