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Over the last 10 years, there has been a large-scale effort to develop and redevelop large segments of downtown. That trajectory continues in connection with construction of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks new arena, a $600 million development, which will be located on the northern edge of downtown Milwaukee. Recently, the City of Milwaukee, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Greater Milwaukee Foundation and the Milwaukee Urban League collaborated to begin engagement for a “Greater Downtown Action Agenda”, which includes neighborhoods adjacent to the downtown.
Inclusion of the neighborhoods is especially significant, because Milwaukee's neighborhoods are in extreme distress due to historical divestment, recent foreclosure crisis and subsequent recession. This is exacerbated by segregation and the historical impact of red-lining. Many Milwaukee neighborhoods are becoming poorer, resulting in even less socioeconomic and ethnic diversity. Due to these challenges, the National League of Cities recently selected Milwaukee for its first Economic Development Fellowship program, an initiative to integrate equity approaches into efforts to grow strong local economies.
Given the significant level of public and private investment that will occur over the next several years, neighborhoods nearest to the downtown investment will have a rare opportunity to leverage this economic boon. In order for existing commercial districts, local business owners, and residents to benefit from the emerging investments, they need advocates and resources that help them engage innovation, investment and stability. Alternately, there is a significant risk of displacement, and the destabilization of other neighborhoods as people and businesses are pushed out, and must relocate. This dynamic has played out in other cities, as the result of large scale development implemented with good intentions, but poor planning and advocacy on behalf of pre-existing communities.
To benefit from the significant and timely investments in our city, neighborhoods need advocates and resources that help them innovate and advocate. No other organization is better positioned for this task than LISC Milwaukee, because of our national and local resources and expertise, coupled with our extensive network of partners.
Over the next five years, LISC’s focus and resources will be concentrated in a cluster strategy for the low-income neighborhoods most impacted by the opportunities and challenges resulting from Milwaukee’s downtown development. Our target geographies are based on factors including neighborhood capacity, proximity to downtown development, economic need, and an interest in layering LISC’s engagement with other partners for maximum impact.
This focus is informed by the past, but driven by a future vision of an equitable Milwaukee comprised of healthy, vibrant, communities of choice and opportunity. Only through collaboration and alignment, comprehensive interventions, and an equity-based approach, will this be possible.
LISC will continue its important role as a convener and champion of neighborhoods city-wide.
Over the next five years, LISC’s focus and resources will be concentrated in a cluster strategy for the low-income neighborhoods most impacted by the opportunities and challenges resulting from Milwaukee’s downtown development initiatives.