Tag Archives: neighborhoods

Pop consumption falls beyond expectations after soda tax

As voters consider soda taxes in four cities, a new study finds that some Berkeley neighborhoods slashed sugar-sweetened beverage consumption by more than one-fifth after the Northern California city enacted the nation’s first soda tax.

Berkeley voters in 2014 levied a penny-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks to try to curb consumption and stem the rising tide of diabetes and obesity.

After the tax took effect in March 2015, residents of at least two neighborhoods reported drinking 21 percent less of all sugar-sweetened beverages and 26 percent less soda than they had the year before, according to the report in the October American Journal of Public Health.

“From a public health perspective, that is a huge impact. That is an intervention that’s more powerful than anything I’ve ever seen aimed at changing someone’s dietary behavior,” senior author Dr. Kristine Madsen said in a telephone interview.

Madsen, a professor of public health at the University of California at Berkeley, said the drop in sugary drink consumption surpassed her expectations, though it was consistent with consumption declines in low-income neighborhoods in Mexico after it imposed a nationwide tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

The Berkeley results also pleasantly surprised Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.

“I hadn’t expected the effects to be so dramatic,” she said in an email. “This is substantial evidence that soda taxes work.”

The soda industry has spent millions of dollars defeating taxes on sugary drinks in dozens of U.S. cities. But the tax passed easily — with 76 percent of the vote — in Berkeley. In addition to soda, the measure covers sweetened fruit-flavored drinks, energy drinks like Red Bull and caffeinated drinks like Frappuccino iced coffee. Diet beverages are exempt.

In June, the Philadelphia City Council enacted its own tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax is set to take effect in January, although soda trade groups have sued to try to block the measure.

Meanwhile, voters in Boulder, Colorado and the Bay Area cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Albany will vote on whether to tax their sugary beverages on Nov. 8.

San Francisco voters also considered a soda tax in 2014, but it failed to garner a two-thirds majority needed for approval.

Public health officials and politicians point to the Berkeley study as proof of the power of an excise tax to wean people off sweetened drinks.

“The study is another tool highlighting how effective a tax on sugary beverages will be on changing the consumption rate,” San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen told Reuters Health.

“Just like tobacco, these are commodities we can live without that are killing us,” she said. Cohen wrote the San Francisco ballot measure.

Researchers surveyed 873 adults in Berkeley and 1,806 adults in nearby San Francisco and Oakland before and a few months after imposition of the soda tax.

Sweetened beverage consumption increased slightly in San Francisco and Oakland at the same time it dropped in Berkeley, the study showed. In Berkeley, water consumption spiked 63 percent, compared to 19 percent in San Francisco and Oakland, after the tax took effect.

The researchers attributed the surge in water consumption to a heat wave. But the American Beverage Association saw it as example of the study’s flaws.

In a statement, Brad Williams, an economist working for the trade group, criticized the research for using “unreliable and imprecise methodology” and producing “implausible” results.

The association’s criticism may hold grains of truth, Nestle said. But she largely dismissed it. “Obviously, the ABA is going to attack the results. That’s rule number one in the playbook: cast doubt on the science,” she said.

Public health experts believe soda helped drive American obesity rates to among the highest in the world. The U.S. spent an estimated $190 billion treating obesity-related conditions in 2012.

Diabetes rates have almost tripled over the past three decades, while sugary beverage consumption doubled.

Milwaukee ranks No. 4 among best cities for trick-or-treating

Milwaukee came in at No. 4 on the Trick-or-Treat Index for 2016, which identified the best cities and neighborhoods for trick-or-treating on Halloween.

The list, published by Zillow, put Philadelphia in the No. 1 spot.

How were the ratings compiled?


Zillow, in a news release, said it “set out to find the cities where kids can get the best and most candy in the shortest amount of time and have other kids to trick-or-treat with.”

Zillow assigned a team of economists to look at home values, single-family home density, crime rate and the share of the population under 10 years old to determine the list.

Single-family homes are especially dense in Philadelphia, pushing the city to the top of the list, up 12 spots from 2015. San Jose, California, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Los Angeles round out the top five.

“The national ranking is a fun way for trick-or-treaters and their parents across the country to assess how their city compares to others this Halloween season,” said Zillow chief economist Svenja Gudell. “But what’s really important are the local hot spots, which is why we also identified the five best neighborhoods for trick-or-treating in each of the top cities. For candy hunters in cities not on the list, look for areas with lots of decorated homes and neighborhoods with other kids running around in the holiday spirit.”

Other cities that made big jumps were Seattle, up nine spots, and Portland, up eight. Austin makes its first appearance on the list, while Baltimore and Washington, D.C., return after missing the list in 2015.

To see the complete rankings, including the best neighborhoods to trick-or-treat in each city, go to http://www.zillow.com/blog/trick-or-treat/.


Best Cities for Trick-or-Treating in 2016:

  1. Philadelphia
  2. San Jose, Calif.
  3. San Francisco
  4. Milwaukee
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Phoenix
  7. Denver
  8. Portland, Ore.
  9. Seattle
  10. Columbus, Ohio
  11. Las Vegas
  12. Baltimore
  13. Dallas
  14. San Diego
  15. Charlotte, N.C.
  16. Austin, Texas
  17. Albuquerque, N.M.
  18. Chicago
  19. Nashville, Tenn.
  20. Washington, DC

Milwaukee’s domes on endangered places list

Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes are on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.”

Each year, the trust unveils a list spotlighting important examples of the nation’s architectural and cultural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.

More than 270 sites have been on the list over its 29-year history, but the designation appears to help protect the sites. In 29 years, fewer than 5 percent of listed sites have been lost.

The trust said its latest list includes historic places in urban areas “at a time when cities across the nation are experiencing a resurgence.”

Millions of Americans are choosing to relocate to urban areas, with many opting to live in distinctive, character-rich older and historic neighborhoods. Preservation in these neighborhoods is playing a key role in this trend of “reurbanism.”

So, with its 2016 list, the trust is highlighting the importance of adaptability and preservation of historic buildings.

A look at the 11 sites and what the trust has to say about them:

  • Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes at Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservator on Layton Boulevard, a beloved Milwaukee institution for generations, a unique engineering marvel and a highly significant example of midcentury modern architecture, the domes are facing calls for their demolition.
  • Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita Neighborhoods of El Paso, Texas, centers of Latino community life for more than a century, these neighborhoods are experiencing increased demolition.
  • San Francisco’s Embarcadero District, one of the nation’s most beloved historic areas, the Embarcadero must adapt to the threats of seismic vulnerability and sea-level rise.
  • The Sunshine Mile in Tucson, Arizona, an architecturally rich commercial corridor populated by smaller-scale mid-century buildings, many of which could be lost if a new transportation plan moves ahead.
  • Lions Municipal Golf Course, Austin, Texas. Widely regarded as the first municipal golf course in the South to desegregate, “Muny” is a civil rights landmark facing development pressure.
  • Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall at Lincoln University, Lincoln, Pennsylvania. The oldest building on the campus of the first degree-granting institution in the nation for African Americans, the hall currently stands empty and faces an uncertain future.
  • Bears Ears in Southeastern Utah. The 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears cultural landscape features an excellent collection of archaeological sites, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs and ancient roads that illuminate 12,000 years of human history. The area is threatened by looting, mismanaged recreational use and energy development.
  • Charleston Naval Hospital District, North Charleston, South Carolina. The historic district played a prominent role during World War II as a primary re-entry point for American servicemen injured in Europe and Africa. Now threatened by a proposed rail line, the district is at risk of being largely destroyed.
  • Delta Queen, Houma, Louisiana. This steamboat was built in 1926 and today is among the last of its kind. Federal legislation that would enable the ship to return to overnight passenger cruising remains a key piece to securing the Delta Queen’s sustainability and future.
  • Historic Downtown Flemington, New Jersey. Historic buildings at the core of the town that hosted the “Trial of the Century.” the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial, are threatened by a development proposal that would demolish the Union Hotel, along with three other adjacent historic buildings.
  • James River, James City County, Virginia. Jamestown, America’s first permanent English settlement, was founded along the banks of the James River in 1607. The river and landscape, also named to this list by the Trust in 2013, remain threatened by a proposed transmission line project that would compromise the scenic integrity of this historic area.

“For nearly 30 years, our list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places has called attention to threatened one-of-a-kind treasures throughout the nation and galvanized local communities to help save them,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “This year’s list elevates important threatened historic places in our nation’s cities at a time when more than 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas.”

She continued, “We know that preservation is an essential part of the current urban renaissance and that old buildings contribute to the sustainability and walkability of our communities. Historic buildings are also powerful economic engines that spur revitalization, meet a broad range of human needs and enhance the quality of life for us all. With thoughtful and creative policy approaches and tools, we can tap the full potential of these important places and secure a foundation for a stronger and more vibrant future.”

Update on Oct. 12 …

The Mitchell Park Domes Task Force was to meet for the first time on Oct. 12 to discuss the future of the structures.

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors established the 11-member task force to develop a comprehensive long-term plan for the domes.

The task force is chaired by William H. Lynch, a local attorney, and includes County Board Supervisors Peggy A. West, in whose district the Domes are located, and Jason Haas, chair of the County Board’s Parks Committee.

The task force also includes John Dargle, director of the Milwaukee County Parks Department, and several representatives from community organizations.

The domes were closed earlier this year due to concerns about the potential of crumbling concrete to create a safety hazard for visitors, according to a news release that announced the task force meeting.


Try San Fran’s Tenderloin — it doesn’t bite

Sometimes sunny and always beautiful, San Francisco is one of the world’s most popular destinations. From the Golden Gate Bridge to the former Alcatraz Prison, there is no end to its famous attractions. Guides will recommend Fisherman’s Wharf (home to a Ben and Jerry’s shop), Chinatown, a walk through Golden Gate Park, a visit to Haight-Ashbury and a ride on a streetcar. 

But so many of the books exclude one essential endeavor: a visit to the Tenderloin. 

There certainly are valid reasons to warn visitors away from the neighborhood. The Tenderloin has a high crime rate and is a notorious hub of prostitution and drugs. But for a cautious traveler who is well-educated about the neighborhood’s problems and who wants more than a walk through the capital of gentrification and overpriced real estate, the Tenderloin should not be missed.

The neighborhood has a fascinating history. In 1966, transgender people initiated one of the first LGBT rights riots in the country — predating Stonewall by three years — at Compton’s Cafeteria. Just down the street, the Black Hawk nightclub hosted many famous jazz musicians, including Miles Davis and David Brubeck, before it was demolished in the early 1970s. 

The neighborhood also was home to the film industry before the business moved south to Los Angeles and the ornate art deco buildings that housed film studios still stand. 

Residents of the Tenderloin have fought to preserve its integrity by adding many buildings to the National Register of HIstoric Places, seeking to prevent the gentrification that has plagued the rest of the city. To walk through the Tenderloin is to feel, smell and breathe history at every turn.

The local government also has worked to improve the lives of the poor or homeless residents of the Tenderloin. A small church near the neighborhood center, smelling strongly of incense, offers homeless people a free place to sleep. Even at midday the pews are usually full of peaceful nappers.

Boeddeker Park, a small green space once riddled with drugs, is now a safe haven for children and elders, with school groups frequently reserving time for classes to play there. Other green things can be seen in the form of potted plants outside apartment buildings, adding pops of color to the streets. 

A “pit stop” carrying Port-A-Johns, sinks and needle disposals parks at a new location every day, alleviating what was once a large problem of public urination and defecation. And a truck comes around daily to remove garbage from the streets, making it one of the cleaner neighborhoods in San Francisco.

All that makes the Tenderloin a unique, safer-than-ever setting for several cultural stops. One is a small gallery called the Luggage Store Gallery, which frequently hosts the work of minority, local and student artists. 

The gallery is located on Market Street and attracts a hustle and bustle of visitors who have just made it off the BART/Bay Area Rapid Transit shuttle. It is marked by a small, barely visible sign on its façade and almost dwarfed by a large camera store, yet it is usually packed to the brim on monthly gallery nights. It offers a grassroots art scene that is a contrast to the commercial art of the downtown galleries just around the corner.

The current show, in fact, is called Gentrified, featuring mixed media works, paintings and installations by a variety of artists reflecting on “life in the inner city, struggles of earning and getting by, keeping pace and staying focused; street life, encountered objects and environments they have interacted with, (and) the daily stop and grind of bodegas/marketplaces.”

A tourist’s next stop might be the newly opened Tenderloin Museum. Take the local-guided tour to learn intriguing details about the neighborhood — the best places to view drag shows or hidden murals like Mona Caron’s Windows Into the Tenderloin. 

The walking tour perfectly complements the museum’s permanent collection, a one-room show of photographs, videos, newspaper clippings and text panels explaining the Tenderloin’s history. The museum also sells art by local artists on a rotating schedule, making it an atypical museum gift shop. 

The Tenderloin will feel most like the Harambee and Riverwest neighborhoods to Milwaukeeans, similarly filled with a mix of historic buildings, a comparatively diverse population and art galleries. In fact, most Milwaukeeans have probably been told to stay away from these neighborhoods for the same reasons guidebooks recommend avoiding the Tenderloin. 

There is nothing wrong with sticking to safe choices when exploring a new city, but it’s important to consider whether we’re limiting our experiences of cities by not stepping off the beaten path from time to time. It’s off that path where you truly learn about a city, and the Tenderloin is key to understanding San Francisco.

Sure, Fisherman’s Wharf is nice. But one can only eat so much Ben and Jerry’s.

Welcome to the ‘agrihood’: residential developments built around working farms

Gated communities with houses clustered around golf courses, swimming pools, party rooms and fitness centers are common in many suburban areas. But homes built adjacent to functioning farms?

Welcome to “agrihoods” — pastoral ventures with healthier foods as their focus.

This farm-to-table residential model has been sprouting up everywhere from Atlanta to Shanghai. It involves homes built within strolling distance of small working farms, where produce matures under the hungry gaze of residents, where people can venture out and pick greens for their salads.

“Real estate developers are looking for the next big thing to set them apart,” said Ed McMahon, senior resident fellow with the Urban Land Institute in Washington. “That gives them a competitive advantage.”

There are many variations of the agrihood, McMahon said. “Some developers rent acreage to farmers,” he said. “Some set up non-profit C.S.A. (community-supported agriculture) programs. Some have the residents doing it (the growing) themselves.”

Agrihoods frequently include farmer’s markets, inns and restaurants sited in communal hubs where the edibles are processed or sold.

A lot of things are driving the trend, McMahon said. “There’s more interest in fresh foods. There’s interest in good health. There’s interest in local everything. It’s also about enjoying the many conveniences that help you meet your neighbors.”

Many purchasers are second-home buyers, retirees or parents of young children, McMahon said.

“They tend to be what I call the ‘barbell generation,’” he said. “The millennial generation that wants fresh everything, that wants to know where their food is coming from. Also the senior generation, the baby boomers. They don’t want big yards to take care of anymore.”

Prices tend to be a lot cheaper for agriculture-centered dwellings than for homes facing golf courses.

Along with their higher operating costs, many golf course developments face concerns about water shortages; some are being pushed toward becoming food-based operations, said Matthew “Quint” Redmond, owner of Agriburbia LLB, a Boulder, Colorado-based business that designs, builds and operates farms.

“The issue is making more calories out of the water we have,” Redmond said. “Growing things that are better for you. And fewer people are playing golf these days. We’ll be seeing a lot of golf course conversions in the next 10 to 15 years.”

Clay and Roz Johnson moved to a farm-centered community called Serenbe near Atlanta when their second child arrived and they wanted more space. About 70 percent of the 1,000-plus-acre property is green space, and their home abuts the barn.

“I’m looking at it out my back window,” Clay Johnson said in a phone interview. “I’m watching some free-range chickens.”

Most of Serenbe’s landscape consists of edible, medicinal or native plants, said spokeswoman Monica Olsen. “We have blueberry bushes at all of the crosswalks, three on-site restaurants and a seasonal farmer’s market. We just had our 10-year anniversary from when our first residents moved in.”

Johnson said moving to Serenbe made financial sense for his family. “We sold our three-bedroom (house) in Atlanta for more than we bought our five-bedroom here. We both work from home, and have room available if needed for our aging parents.”

And living close to the farm gives them a more personal relationship with their food, he said. “Our kids recognize the farmers and know who they are. The farm is operated like a business, so you can’t just hop the fence and pull some vegetables. That’s stealing. But my son has asked for and been given a handful of cherry tomatoes for the walk home,” Johnson said.

“When we had our second child, I didn’t cook for several weeks because neighbors kept bringing over food,” he said. “It’s not just a farm but it creates a sense of community just like a church does. We all meet at the farmer’s market on Saturdays.”

Shop local at Milwaukee’s top retail districts

Having trouble finding that perfect gift this year? Braving Black Friday or adventuring on Amazon.com are not the only options. Milwaukee’s diverse shopping districts offer a variety of opportunity and options for every sort of gift recipient — from the fashionista to the quirky uncle and everything in between.


Perhaps the best place to start discussion of Milwaukee’s shopping districts is the Third Ward. Just south of downtown, the district is packed to the brim with boutiques, galleries and specialty shops, thanks to a successful campaign in the ’90s and early ’00s to draw businesses to the area. Much of the development has continued southward, into Walker’s Point, but the best shopping still remains in this small neighborhood — perfect for a weekend afternoon of wandering.

Third Ward businesses have a reputation for high price points, but there are options for the cost-conscious shopper. 

The big news in the district is the new West Elm store, 342 N. Water St. The modern home decor and furniture store opened in June, amid a great deal of hype from devotees and newcomers. While West Elm is part of a Williams-Sonoma-owned chain, Milwaukee’s store features a curated selection of products from Wisconsin artists as part of its LOCAL initiative. So you don’t have to feel too guilty about shopping at a national outlet instead of something closer to home (westelm.com).

Boutiques are one of the Third Ward’s main draws, and it’d take a full article to go through them all. One that stands out among the crowd is Denim Bar, 317 N. Broadway. Whether your loved ones are hopping back on the ’90s trend and hoping to deck themselves out from head to toe, or if they just need a nice designer pair of jeans, this should be your first stop. Denim Bar offers Wisconsin’s largest selection of denim for both men and women. Denim Bar also features a number of options from owner Heidi Darrow Mains’ original gig, online boutique Stella’s Trunk, featuring luxury gift items from around the world (denimbarmke.com).

You might also consider popping into Lizzibeth, one of the newest additions to the Third Ward. Formerly a pop-up fashion boutique that sold jewelry and clothing in random stores, restaurants and homes, as well as online, Lizzibeth now has a brick-and-mortar location at 550 E. Menomonee St. Owner Lizzi Weasler opened the store in November 2014. A year later, the store is a solid addition to the neighborhood, offering affordable women’s fashion options, with most jewelry priced under $40 and most everything else under $100 (lizzibeth.com).

You know what goes with new clothes? New shoes. And Shoo, 241 N. Broadway, has been the Third Ward’s top place to pick up unique footwear for more than a decade, specializing in hard-to-find footwear lines from the States and abroad. Operated by siblings Kate and Pat Blake, the store is known for its inventory, customer service and antique decor — creating an exceptional shopping experience in a store with a homey feel. For Madisonians, Shoo recently opened a location on State Street (shoostore.com).

If your giftee is the outdoorsy type more obsessed with function than fashion, the Third Ward has an answer. Clear Water Outdoor, 250 N. Water St., is an outdoor clothing and gear store offering such top brands as Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear and Arc’teryx. In addition, the store offers kayak, cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals and lessons

Wrap up a Third Ward shopping experience with a trip to Red Elephant Chocolates, 333 N. Broadway, to complete your list and pick up a tasty reward for yourself. Red Elephant specializes in handmade chocolates, including special seasonal batches, and their product is a perfect stocking stuffer


What the boundaries of Milwaukee’s “East Side” are may differ from person to person, but there’s no denying that traveling north of downtown along Lake Michigan you will find exceptional shopping opportunities. From Brady Street and North Avenue up toward Downer Avenue and Shorewood, there’s a string of businesses worth checking out.

Start with the artsy options of East Meets West, 918 E. Brady St., an Asian art, clothing, accessories and gift shop. With most of its inventory purchased by the owner in her native Thailand, the eclectic shop is packed with one-of-a-kind men’s and women’s apparel and accessories that can’t be found anywhere else in the city.

Further down Brady, you can stumble across Uncommon Items, 1316 E. Brady St. This small boutique doesn’t look like much from the street, but inside it’s stuffed with affordable women’s apparel and handcrafted jewelry, with a bohemian aesthetic

Buying for pet lovers? You won’t want to miss EcoPet, 1229 E. Brady St., a local pet shop with an emphasis on healthy treats and accessories. The shop’s offerings include dog pizza slices and smoothies, natural and organic catnip and a wide selection of affordable travel gear and accessories that the humans’ll love.

Or, if you’re buying for parents of cuddly humans instead of cuddly pets, try Little Monsters, 2445 N. Farwell Ave. This vivid little shop features quirky toys, clothing and miscellaneous other items — and it is designed more for discovering that one special gift than the latest, most on-trend sensation (littlemonstersmilwaukee.com). 

Beans and Barley, 1901 E. North Ave., is best known for its restaurant and deli, but its adjacent specialty market is an out-of-the-box option for loved ones. Plus, while you’re browsing through Beans and Barley’s selection of natural bath and body care items, magazines and books, and food and wine options, you might find something for yourself to take home! (beansandbarley.com)

Still looking for one last thing? That’s exactly what Shorewood’s Mod Gen, 2107 E. Capitol Drive, is for. Around since 2001 as the Garden Room, Mod Gen recently rebranded as a 21st-century general store, expanding to offer more books, home goods, specialty foods, toys and more. (modgenmke.com)


Bay View isn’t just where Milwaukee 30-somethings go to settle down. It’s also a great place for Milwaukeeans of all kinds to find unusual, hip gifts for their artistic and adventurous friends, and the influx of residents to the area over the past few years has come with a similar influx of high-quality businesses.

Take Sparrow Collective, 2224 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., as an example of the Bay View aesthetic you can find all along KK Avenue and its tributaries. The artistic consignment store, established in 2009 after similar shops shut their doors, features handcrafted art, jewelry and decor by individual artists and groups — and a lot more of it than you’d think from the modest facade.

But not every Bay View gift destination is a new addition. Rush Mor Records, 2635 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., is Milwaukee’s oldest record store, founded in 1971. It’s also still an essential a place to shop for vinyl lovers, fresh off an exterior makeover earlier this year and packed with music from across every genre and era. (rushmor.com)

If it’s old clothes instead of old records you have in mind, you’re in luck. Bay View’s an antiques, vintage and thrift store hub, with more options than we can list. One of the more established choices is Tip Top Atomic Shop, 2343 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., a kitschy treasure trove of vintage clothing and household goods that’s a retro aficionado’s dream. 

You seldom go wrong gifting a good book, which makes Bay View Books and Music, 2653 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., a must-browse stop. The store is one of Milwaukee’s few old-timey, claustrophobic-in-the-best-way shops not to either close or relocate in the past few years. The shop stocks a healthy assortment of records and DVDs, too. Bonus: The entrance bleeds seamlessly into R Vintage N More, an overstuffed furniture and antique mall that shares the space with the bookstore.

Wrap up the gift hunt with one of the best-smelling places in Milwaukee: Halo Soap, 2227 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. This storefront owned by soapmaker Stacie Cherubini stocks handmade soaps, bath bombs, skin care products and more. Technically, you can also buy any of Halo’s products online, but that’s a terrible, unscented decision. (halosoap.com)

Open Streets event promotes car-free Milwaukee

Open Streets MKE/Ciclovia MKE celebrates cycling, community and culture on Milwaukee’s southside on Aug. 29.

The event — the first open streets event in Milwaukee — will be 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Organizers say “this event will create a car-free public space where families and friends can exercise and play and neighborhood businesses can engage the community.”

Open Streets events encourage people to get out and bike, run, walk and mingle in a safe and fun environment. 

The route for this event will be Greenfield Avenue north to Washington Street on Cesar Chavez Drive, then east on Washington down to Barclay Street and ending at the opening of the KK River Trail.

In addition to traveling the open streets route, people can participate in dance classes, soccer tournaments arts and crafts activities and more.

The program has multiple sponsors, including the city of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks, the Cesar E. Chavez Drive Business Improvement District, Bublr Bikes, Core El Centro, Wisconsin Bike Fed, AWE Inc., Clarke Square, Harbor District Milwaukee, Maldonado and Morgan, NKE, Pete’s Fruit Market, People for Bikes, Walker Square and Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers.

For more, go online to Ciclovia>MKE.

EPA releases web-based environmental justice mapping tool

The EPA this month released EJSCREEN, a web-based environmental justice mapping and screening tool that provides information communities need to assess environmental and health problems and disparities.

EJSCREEN provides high resolution maps showing nationally-based demographic and environmental information that helps the user understand potential environmental justice issues in a particular area.

EJSCREEN only includes data available on a national scale but, according to the group Earthjustice, is an important first step in identifying and assisting communities overburdened with pollution.

People can access the tool through EPA’s website, www2.epa.gov/EJSCREEN.

Earthjustice, in a statement, said urged the EPA to strengthen the tools available to provide information and assess the health impacts and disparities of pollution and environmental problems at the community level.

EPA first committed to create a national environmental justice screening tool as part of its Plan EJ 2014, the environmental justice strategic plan created by former administrator Lisa Jackson. 

Earlier this year, together with over 40 community groups from around the United States, Earthjustice submitted a letter to the administrator emphasizing the importance of releasing EJSCREEN for public input and use as soon as possible.

Earthjustice legislative counsel Stephanie Maddin said, “We are delighted to see that EPA has released the first-ever national screening tool for environmental justice. We know that too many communities in the United States, particularly communities of color and low-income communities, face extra, harmful pollution from sources like oil refineries, and EJSCREEN will help shine important light on this unfairness.”

Framing the conversation | Milwaukee’s gallery owners build an art community

“Everyone has to do their own bit. Not sit back and wait for other people to do it. Get up off your ass and do it yourself, you’re an artist for f**k’s sake. Get creative.” 

So says Clive Promhows, owner of Milwaukee’s Live Artists Studio, one of several galleries in the city’s artist community. It’s advice that illuminates the energy of that community, unified by tenacity and passion. 

The Milwaukee art scene is rich with a diverse array of galleries and art venues, but there are distinct changes afoot. The closing of the DeLind Gallery of Fine Art after 46 years, and the forthcoming shuttering of Elaine Erickson Gallery this June will create voids in the wake of their long-established presences. Yet, there are new locations for exhibitions that suggest transformation in the way art intersects with a public audience, and other established galleries are changing too.

But regardless of change, one thing remains the same: Each gallery has its own distinct feel, an individual expression of its owners’ vision.

The Gallery Tradition

Most conventional, in Milwaukee, are the Tory Folliard Gallery and Dean Jensen Gallery. These two mainstays developed in the Third Ward in the late 1980s, growing as the neighborhood did.

Folliard’s interest in art was nurtured by her work as a docent, and she started to take her work home with her — her earliest shows, featuring the work of Guido Brink, took place in her own house. When things got to the point that she was moving furniture to make room for more art, it became clear that a dedicated space was in order. 

After several successful exhibitions in Fox Point, Folliard moved to the Third Ward. She has remained there for the past 25 years. 

She attributes her longevity to the deep sense of enrichment visual art gives her. “It makes life so enjoyable,” Folliard says. “It inspires you, it makes you happy, it changes everything. I can’t imagine a blank wall. It just makes your life full in a different way.”

Jensen came to gallery ownership from a different direction. Originally a newspaper reporter, his life took a sudden shift after a yearlong fellowship at the University of Michigan, studying Renaissance painting. Returning to his newspaper job, he had an awakening: “From the instant I got off the elevator the first day after that wonderful year in Ann Arbor, I made the decision that I didn’t want to do that anymore,” he says. “Before the year was out I had a gallery.” 

Jensen’s career as a novelist also demands his attention, but the gallery remains important. “This has been wonderful coming in here each day, sort of like coming into my own little chapel. You get visual stimulation from the work. I spend time with the pictures and everyday see them anew.“

The longest-running gallery in the city is the David Barnett Gallery, now in its 48th year. Initiation into the art business came early for Barnett. When he was 16 years old, his family’s factory closed, derailing his assumed future with the business. His interest in art took over; three years later he opened his gallery. 

Initially, Barnett’s focus was on local artists. But several years in, he took out a loan and flew to New York, where he purchased works by Pablo Picasso, Joan Mió, Salvador Dalí and more: an inventory to grow from in subsequent decades.

Barnett’s gallery is in a Victorian house on the East Side, and visitors will note the extraordinary diversity of works on view — from historical pieces to contemporary art. 

He says these works serve as a reflection of his individuality, rather than diversity for its own sake. “It’s based on my own personal beliefs in collecting, philosophy, instinct and passion. … It’s perhaps not a very business-like model but it’s the honest one for me which is why I have such a big collection.”

Bending Conventions

In 2008, the Portrait Society Gallery filled a 300-square-foot office on the fifth floor of the Marshall Building in the Third Ward. Director Debra Brehmer helped it grow, pushing her exhibitions out of that room and sending them sprawling into the hallway. As they continually increased in scope, they eventually made the leap into adjacent areas as they became available for rental.

These spaces have coalesced into a flexible, multi-room venue, all dedicated to Brehmer’s expansive interpretation of portraiture. “I curate the shows out of my own interests and that’s the way it’s always been,” Brehmer says. “I think it’s the only thing you can really do to grow and get people used to the idea that there is a sort of a center and a vision. It gives the gallery an identity.” 

Other art venues take a different approach. Green Gallery, now located on the East Side after a fire destroyed its primary space, has expanded considerably since its establishment in Riverwest in 2004. Director John Riepenhoff began the endeavor while still a student at UWM. “In essence, no one was doing the type of gallery I wanted to see so I just made it happen,” he says. “My brother started a recording studio in one room, the gallery was in another room and a music venue was in another room.” 

One of the guiding principles of Green Gallery is to create a sense of community, and to form a place where ideas can be explored and developed. 

“For the Green Gallery we don’t narrow what it can be, we open it up,” Riepenhoff says. “Sometimes we don’t know what the work looks like until we’re actually in the space. The opening is happening and there’s a certain kind of presence in the air and in the work. Sometimes it’s years later that I really learn about the depths of what a show was about. For us it’s about a nowness, being very current, being present, and very open to the possibilities of what art can be and not what our expectations have been.” 

Clive Promhows’ Live Artists Studio is driven by a model of deliberate scarcity. Promhows embraces visual culture, drama, music and all manner of creative endeavors, but many of them are only held for a single day or a couple of nights. “The real good stuff, you gotta get in there quick,” he says.

These single-night and limited-run engagements, growing more common among other galleries and groups as well, have become important for showcasing his work and promoting many other artists in often monumental exhibitions. In the last five-and-a-half years, Promhow has hosted 45 to 50 shows in the studio, on the fourth floor of an old industrial building in Walker’s Point. It intrigued him from the start. “I thought, I have no idea what’s going to happen here, but I’m going to do my best,” he says.

Being outside of a formal gallery structure is also a point of liberation. Promhows says, “We’ve got nothing to lose, we’ve got no one to please. There’s so much hidden talent in this town. Huge. With art, with music, with acting, with film. It’s just a question of elevating people’s attitude.”

Recent Ambitions

Making a physical location for things to happen also motivates some of the newer galleries on the scene, including Usable Space, initiated by Keith Nelson about two years ago in Bay View. 

His background as an artist, as well as 10 years spent as a preparator at the Milwaukee Art Museum (where he still works freelance), gives Nelson a unique curatorial approach. He calls himself a “facilitator,” offering exhibition opportunities for others. 

“I started Usable Space knowing that it’s not going to be a profitable business that can generate its own funding,” Nelson says. “Another thing that was important to me was to have artists curate, and bring in artists from outside of Milwaukee. I didn’t want it to just be a local scene thing. I’ve had artists from New York, Chicago and L.A. alongside artists from Milwaukee, so it shows that what is going on in Milwaukee is relevant to what is going on in all the big art centers, too.” 

Six shows are held at Usable Space yearly, monthly from April to September. The location’s logistics (the gallery is a converted garage) preclude winter exhibitions.

Equally inventive is the new gallery space opened by Mike Brenner, a veteran of the local scene still known for his edgy Hotcakes Gallery, which was open from 2004 to 2008. Brenner’s recent ambitions offer another alternative for the promotion of art. He’s opened a new brewery in Walker’s Point, Brenner Brewing Company, that features and facilitates an adjoining art gallery and studio space: The Pitch Project. 

Overseen by Jason Yi and Sonja Thomsen, The Pitch Project serves as a network of 22 artists’ studios, as well as exhibition space. It’s an effort by them and Brenner to integrate art spaces into the community. Brenner is also incorporating original, contemporary art into the packaging of his beer, with designs by artists including Sue Lawton, Erin Paisley-Steuber and James “Jimbot” Demski on new products.

Brenner says there are challenges to this joining of art and commerce, but he sees this as something more than product promotion. “You hope that eventually people do see the value in it and it pays off. And then we can continue to do it and grow it and make even more good for the community.” 

It’s a mission that echoes the missions of so many other gallery operators throughout the city, even as each frames their galleries in their own individual way.

Current/Upcoming Gallery Exhibitions

Tory Folliard Gallery 

233 N. Milwaukee St. 

‘Mark Forth: Modern Ballads’

‘Harold Gregor: Midwestern Master’

May 29 to July 4 

Dean Jensen Gallery 

759 N. Water St. 

‘Great Impressions IV: An Exhibition of Contemporary Prints’

‘Gérard Sendrey: Constantly Inconstant ‘

Through June 14. 

David Barnett Gallery 

1024 E. State St. 

‘Kiki’s Paris’

Through July 18. 

Portrait Society Gallery 

207 E. Buffalo St., Fifth Floor

‘Wis-Con-Sin’: Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, J. Shimon & J. Lindemann, Charles Van Schaick

June 12 to Aug. 30.

Green Gallery 

1500 N. Farwell Ave.

‘Kim Miller’

‘“Democrats, Republicans, Capitalists and Creeps” … and You’ 

Through June 13. 

Usable Space 

1950b S. Hilbert St.

‘Where Does It Go Now? New Paintings by Annie Hémond Hotte’

Exhibition opens May 22. 

Live Artists Studio 

228 S. First St., Suite 302 

‘The Carol Show 2: Pastel Drawings by Carol Rode-Curley’ 

Exhibition opens May 22. 

Brenner Brewing Company 

The Pitch Project

706 S. 5th St. 

‘Pyrite Suns, Miner’s Dollars’: An Installation by Aspen Mays

June 12 to Sept. 12

Developer Barry Mandel says building Milwaukee takes more than concrete

Donald Trump fancies himself the archetype of a successful real estate mogul, but fortunately Milwaukee’s Barry Mandel, president of Mandel Group, possesses nothing like the bombastic, attention-seeking missile of an ego that defines Trump. Quietly reflective and a “political agnostic,” in his words, Mandel has a vision of development that includes building a stronger and more prosperous community. His company has core values that include focusing on environmental impact and historic preservation, whenever possible.

But Mandel can be competitive, too. Consider the way in which he settled a $25,000 dispute with a construction contractor.

Mandel was 54 when he and Rich Lynch, president of the company that built University Club Tower — perhaps Mandel’s signature project — became bogged down in negotiations over $1.7 million in contested costs. The two men hammered their differences down to $25,000, but then their talks stalled. Rather than go to court, they agreed to settle the matter by swimming a 100-meter race, with the loser paying $25,000 to the winner.

Mandel, who hadn’t swum competitively since high school, didn’t realize at the time that the physically more imposing Lynch was a former co-captain of the UW-Madison swim team. When he found out, however, Mandel didn’t back out. Instead, he became determined to win. He trained vigorously for three months with Olympic swimmer Adam Mania and received what proved to be some very helpful advice from one of Mania’s acquaintances, Olympic gold-medalist Mark Spitz. 

Mandel won the race by 12-hundredths of a second.

Bringing people into the city

In many ways, Mandel’s success has been built on defying the odds. In 1988, when white flight from the city was still in full swing, Mandel developed East Pointe Commons on the Lower East Side, on land that had been cleared to make way for a freeway extension that was never built. To succeed, the $85-million project had to draw the kind of people who lived in the suburbs back into the city. Everyone thought he was crazy.

The project not only succeeded but also paved the way for Third Ward development and for the downtown residential renaissance that has made Milwaukee the city it is today, according to Mayor Tom Barrett.

“Barry’s not just moving people around the city, he’s bringing people into the city,” Barrett says. “He’s added to the city’s tax base, its livability and its sense of vibrancy.”

“He’s not someone who just parachutes in — he’s very involved in the community,” Barrett adds. “He’s very engaged. He’s very much an advocate of attracting business into the city, and he’s pushed the city on aggressively marketing itself.”

Mandel says a lot of responsibility comes with real-estate development, because it shapes not only the city’s skyline but also contributes to its culture and quality of life.

“I am particularly proud of the parks we’ve built and how those have made connections with the public to our developments,” Mandel says. “Our developments become broader than just the development itself — they become amenities to the general public.”

Changing the non-building environment

While he continues to enjoy building, Mandel says his focus is turning increasingly to the major underlying issues affecting Milwaukee, including segregation, education and economic development. He says a number of organizations and individuals are working on these and other local problems, but their efforts need to be more coordinated and less politicized. Mandel’s frustrated by the state’s politically supercharged environment, which prompts leaders to treat serious issues as ideological talking points rather than real problems affecting real people. 

“When I turned 60, it was a time of reflection, and I recognized that our company had built a great deal and has in part changed the landscape of metropolitan Milwaukee,” Mandel says. “At the same time I realized that unless I can help change the non-building environment in a very substantial way, all the buildings and communities we create will not be sustainable over time.

“The next chapter of my career will certainly be to continue to build, but also to focus on making significant impact on the unbuilt environment. What I mean by that is to focus on the major issues that confront the city of Milwaukee — economic development, jobs and education.

“In order to work on any of those issues broadly, you need to bridge gaps between diverse constituencies and bubble up shared values that are so compelling that one becomes agnostic to whether or not they’re of a political persuasion, but passionate about good ideas that move the city in a direction that’s consistent with making it a better place for all.”

Mandel thinks that Milwaukee still has “enough hope to create a 21st-century city, a city that provides opportunity for a diverse group of people.”

A number of strong proposals are on the table to move Milwaukee forward, Mandel says. Among them, he cites creating a renewable energy infrastructure (many of his buildings have green rooftops), developing a downtown streetcar system, expanding the convention center, building a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, undertaking new lakefront development and ratcheting up a program that converts foreclosed houses into owner-occupied homes. 

Mandel is also an advocate for “creative place making,” which means designating places to bring together people from different backgrounds and areas of expertise to generate spontaneous interactions that spark innovation. As an example, he points to a successful collaboration between General Electric and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design to create a more welcoming hospital environment for women with breast cancer. 

Mandel believes Milwaukee leaders need to nurture these kinds of creative relationships. 

Despite his achievements — Barrett says Mandel is one of two or three developers who have had the most impact on the city— Mandel acknowledges, “I wake up every day thinking I could have done more.”

“I don’t necessarily mean I could have built more or made more money,” he says. “I could have made more transformative changes by working with others to gain traction for initiatives that my efforts could have caused other people to build and make the city a better place.”

But he’s proud of the way his developments blend seamlessly into the city and add to its amenities.

“When I drive through the city, I feel that the developments we’ve done are so neatly knitted into the urban fabric that they provide a foundation and a substance for the city,” he says. “And that perhaps in some cases the architectural effort that we made enhances the city.” 

University Club Tower, where Mandel — along with some of the state’s wealthiest residents — also lives, is probably the development that gives him the most satisfaction, he says. 

“I get a sparkle in my eye with respect to something that’s very odd,” he explains. “One of the things we tried to enhance the (building) was to crush quartz into the pre-cast stone. As I drive east toward the building, I can see the sunlight shimmering on the west façade and the sparkling of the crushed quartz, which illuminates our building. And it does make me smile.”

Building history

Since East Pointe Commons, Barry Mandel’s first downtown residential development in 1988, he expanded the city’s higher-end residences with buildings that fit so well into the urban environment around them that it’s hard to imagine their absence. Unconvinced? Consider these iconic Mandel buildings:

Library Hill, 740 W. Wisconsin Ave. The 1990 renovation of this complex next to Central Library helped revitalize Westown, providing momentum for future developments by both Mandel and other companies.

Trostel Square, 1818 N. Commerce St. This mix of apartments and townhouses is just one of many developments on the Beerline, but it’s one of the most eye-catching, with an expanded riverwalk and open courtyard. The project was completed in 2004.

University Club Tower, 825 N. Prospect Ave. At 36 stories, University Club is Mandel’s tallest building yet — and the third-tallest in Wisconsin. The 2007 building is by far Mandel’s most luxurious, with dozens of high-profile residents including Mandel himself. 

LightHorse, 4041 N. Oakland Ave. Named to honor the site’s original use — a barracks and stable for the Wisconsin National Guard — LightHorse has already become an anchor in the heart of Shorewood, and an important expansion for Mandel. The first units were completed in September 2013, and the rest of the building was finished in February.

The North End, 1551 N. Water St. The Park East neighborhood itself is still a work-in-progress, but The North End has gone a long way toward revitalizing the area. The former tannery features eco-friendly apartments alongside the new performance venue Denim Park, a massive green roof space and, soon, a farmers market. Some units are open while others are still under construction.

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