Walker's Point: A Neighborhood In Transition
Walker’s Point is seeing an influx -- of new businesses, new housing, new people. And, while most view this change as positive, there are concerns about what it means for the fabric of the community.
The Milwaukee neighborhood known for its large Hispanic population, great restaurants, industrial gritty feel, and for being LGBTQ friendly.
“Third Ward has more like upscale-type people and Bay View is more like the hipster-type. I feel like Walker’s Point kind of brought those two together. So it kind of made like a hipster, upscale breed, I guess,” Joshua Ebert says.
He’s lived in Walker's Point for the past five years and started the Walker's Point Creative Collective.
Ebert has a funky look that seems to fit in perfectly here. He has a full beard, Mohawk and a ton of tattoos.
He acknowledges the look of the neighborhood -- and its population -- are changing.
The area has seen a boom in the construction of high-end apartments and other developments.
“There’s so much going on right now. New restaurants, new bars, a new crowd of people,” Ebert says.
And, he thinks the changes are for the better. Ebert says he used to hear stories about people being robbed in alleyways, but that’s no longer the case. He says the area has become nicer, overall, with the influx of money.
Joaquin Altoro has witnessed the transformation, first-hand. He's vice president of the Walker's Point Board of Directors, and a vice president at Town Bank, which is in the neighborhood. Altoro says the rising demand for rental housing is one of the most significant changes.
From Walker's Point restaurant scene to its proximity to downtown, Altoro says people see all of this and "come into the neighborhood and say 'I want to live here.'"
"They might have the ability and supplemental income to afford higher rents because the more dense it becomes, you know, that supply is going to grow and so is demand." And, Altoro says, the higher rents dictate the type of tenants in the buildings.
Yet, Altoro's hopeful long time, lower-income residents aren't pushed out of the area. “We have folks that have either been here a long time or folks [who] maybe live on the western side of Walker's Point, where maybe rents are a little bit cheaper. This awkward conversation is going to continue to happen where we're going to have kind of this mixture, and maybe even clash of different incomes. And along with different incomes comes different demographics of people," he says.
So just how much displacement is actually happening? The City of Milwaukee says not much.
Dave Misky is with the Department of City Development and argues that what’s taking place in Walker's Point is not gentrification because people aren't actually being forced out of homes.
“Many of these buildings have been underutilized or vacant for many, many years. And so the speculative development that has been occurring and then the real development that has been occurring has really been in vacant spaces,” hes ays.
Driving around Walker's Point, it looks like there’s much more development to come. A lot of buildings have for sale signs and there are a number that are currently vacant.