By JEFFREY JENSEN
A celebratory cake with an inspiring message welcomed representatives from Lincoln Village to the Basilica lower church hall, fittingly setting the tone and mood of this community gathering.
“Coming Together is the Beginning.
Keeping Together is the Progress.
Working Together is the Success.”
— Henry Ford
After a series of well-attended meetings over the last eight months, facilitated by Milwaukee’s Department of City Development (DCD), a diverse group of partners, united in a common goal, convened once again on June 27 for the purpose of presenting the conclusions of the Lincoln Village Opportunity Strategy.
This special occasion highlighted the momentum, commitment and kinship of the team of interested stakeholders focused on a revival of the area. The campaign began with the first open discussion back in November 2018, and continued throughout the winter and spring, including cold winter walks through Kosciuszko Park and surrounding streets. The focus of all this collaboration was what we can do together as a community to improve the Lincoln Village neighborhood.
The recommendations of the Lincoln Village Opportunity Strategy focused on six specific areas of interest:
- Using the Basilica as a community gathering or event space.
- Organizing the businesses in the Lincoln Avenue Commercial Corridor so that they work together to address key issues and develop a strategy to make the Corridor more appealing.
- Streetscaping (i.e. street beautification) to physically enhance the corridor and make it more attractive to businesses and customers.
- Priority Properties (i.e. facade improvements) improving the exteriors of some of the commercial buildings along the corridor to make it more attractive and welcoming for businesses and consumers.
- Code Enforcement by the various City of Milwaukee departments needs to be more adequate and consistent.
- Safety in Kosciuszko Park; improving the image of the Park and ensuring safety and comfort for all its visitors is imperative for the Lincoln Village Neighborhood.
As the meeting began in the lower church hall, a group of over 50 engaged stakeholders assembled in a large circle and were welcomed by Aldermen José Pérez (District 12) and Tony Zielinski (District 14). Sam Leichtling of the DCD once again led the meeting and introduced each of ten speakers representing the Department of Public Works, the Department of Neighborhood Services, the Milwaukee Police Department, Lincoln Village Business Association, the St. Josaphat Basilica Foundation, Milwaukee County Parks, Potential “Friends of” Kosciuszko Park, Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department, Sixteenth Street Community Health Center and the DCD, all working collectively toward a common goal. Each of the speakers briefly outlined next steps to be taken in their strategy, asking how the larger group can help them ensure success, and to share contact information to allow other parties to let them know if things aren’t working as planned.
After the last speaker had sat down and just before the meeting adjourned to mingle over cake, an accomplished and influential (and rapt) audience member was moved to rise from his chair and share an outsider’s fresh perspective of what he had just witnessed. J. Michael Mooney, Co-founder, Chairman and a Principal of MLG Capital, an investment and development company, has more than 50 years of experience in the diverse and often complex brokerage, consulting and planning business. His voice gushed with enthusiasm and support.
“I want to be your cheerleader!” he said. “It’s absolutely awesome your commitment and your efforts. Keep on keeping on! And remember the Basilica is a magical catalyst, your saving grace and your magic stone! It’ll be in your selfish best interests to keep it that way!”
Mooney’s buoyant message capped off a substantive 90-minute session that included many positive actions planned for the future. To be sure, the fomenting words of Henry Ford were a fitting reminder of what has been accomplished over the past eight months: the Lincoln Village community came together initially, bonded together throughout the long process and are emboldened to continue to work together to ensure the success of the Lincoln Village Opportunity Strategy.