Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Urbanism Redefined in Milwaukee

Dateline: 4:49 pm June 16, 2008 Filed under:

A recent tour of several public housing redevelopments in the city of Milwaukee opened my eyes to several lessons in good design, development and planning. The city of Milwaukee Department of City Development has made great strides in the past decade in terms of infill, good urban design and inner city redevelopment.

I was in Milwaukee mainly to focus on the Highland Gardens and Highland Homes project, a redevelopment of two aging and, in typical fashion of 1960s public housing, quite dreadful towers and rowhomes in to a new urbanism neighborhood of single-family homes and elderly/disabled public housing. A case study of this project can be found at the ULI Case Studies website.

Highland Homes and Highland Gardens are a HOPE VI project, and are great examples of the effectiveness of that program in terms of redeveloping housing and reinvigorating entire neighborhoods. Indeed, in a recent interview with Bruce Katz of the Brookings Metropolitan Program, he cited HOPE VI as one of the better federal programs for cities.

Highland Homes and Highland Gardens are also good examples of universal design. The Highland Gardens building is entirely accessible to residents in wheelchairs, with easily removable and interchangeable bath/showers and counters/cabinets to allow ease of use by residents.

Plus, Highland Gardens has one of the largest green roofs on a residential buidling in the midwest. Other redevelopments in the core are using other green features such as pervious pavers on streets. Chicago gets a lot of attention for HOPE VI and green initiatives, but keep your eye on their neighbor to the north, Milwaukee. Great things are happening.

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