Master's Thesis

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Master's Thesis (History) for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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Master's Thesis

  1. 1. 1 Chapter One – Historic Preservation: An Alternative to Urban Renewal Policy Stimulates Revitalization in Milwaukee’s Third Ward Fighting freeways, reclaiming old neighborhoods, and preserving historic buildings were all activities that expressed a new ethic, a new aesthetic, a new way of looking at urban life. After decades of neglect, Milwaukeeans began to value their city again, to rediscover the nooks and crannies, quirks and qualities that had always made the community unique.1 On my only previous visit to Milwaukee 20 years ago, I left with an overall impression of a rather downtrodden Midwest city suffering, like Detroit, from the downturn in American manufacturing plants. Last summer[,] I returned to find that the brick warehouses along an oily river had been transformed into trendy restaurants, with alfresco dining along a new [R]iverwalk of brick and stone. The downtown galleries, shops, museums[,] and free concerts reminded me more of a mini-Chicago than a factory town turned to rust.2 Urban renewal, a federally-adopted program in the United States, primarily began in the 1940s as the attention paid to urban cores decreased, and especially with the rise of suburbs. Historians call the Housing Act of 1949 the beginning of urban renewal policy in the U.S. because it funded the demolition of urban slums for new, tax-generating residential developments. The Housing Act of 1949 “contained a ‘predominantly residential’ requirement, mandating that funds spent under the act be concentrated on housing rather than office buildings or redevelopment plazas.”3 Following the 1949 act, political debate grew over whether redevelopment or public housing was the best way to achieve urban renewal. Redevelopment, a way to revive residential slums and blighted commercial areas, “was essentially designed to eliminate slums, and provide for consequent re-use of cleared land with predominantly residential, yet limited commercial emphasis.”4 This means that economically-declining urban areas, mostly slums, were destroyed and rebuilt with better, high quality housing structures that sold at higher prices, as well as commercial or business developments that could reap profit for the area
  2. 2. 2 and increase tax bases so long as that area was aesthetically improved to attract interested investors. Public housing, however, “was designed to provide low-rent dwellings for low-income families exclusively, and was [not] intended to alleviate the economic problems besetting inner cities.”5 Over time, urban renewal in the U.S. primarily focused on redevelopment to achieve economic revitalization of urban cores. But urban renewal was also a controversial topic as it often resulted in urban sprawl, the demolition of large areas of cities, and the construction of freeway and housing projects. For example, “[t]he value of the Third Ward land purely for parking purposes was overwhelmingly clear throughout the fifties and can be attested to by the acres of parking still present along the lakefront.”6 Urban renewal may have helped to transform and revitalize some U.S. cities, but this often came at high costs to communities and neighborhoods, even the destruction of rundown areas. Since national leaders have reevaluated the costs and effects of this country’s earlier urban renewal policies, renewal has taken on a much different role as it focuses less on destruction and more on renovation and reinvestment. This chapter will show how urban renewal was a topic of debate that gradually evolved from its earliest forms into a more moderate approach, helped by the preservation movement. Milwaukee’s Urban Renewal Program Gives Way to Human Renewal In the 1950s, Milwaukee’s Common Council was unsure of the best approach to urban renewal – public housing versus redevelopment. Public housing had been the federal government’s focus as far back as the Housing Act of 1934 that created the Federal Housing Authority. Fifteen years later, the Housing Act of 1949 also directed federal funds toward housing, rather than commercial or office redevelopment; this act
  3. 3. 3 continued the federal government’s long-accepted application of public housing to help economically-distressed urban areas. But those in favor of redevelopment were making a case. Redevelopment was geared toward the elimination of slums through the re-use of land that emphasized residential as well as commercial uses.7 Feeling pressure from businesses and real estate developers to consider the economic effects of federally-sponsored and subsidized inner-city redevelopment, Milwaukee’s Common Council felt it had to act soon to settle the public housing versus redevelopment debate. Inner-city alderman in the council felt the heat to act on behalf of the areas they represented. For example, as renewal projects progressed many aldermen were forced to deal with matters of residential displacement and relocation and possible reimbursement to those residents who were forced to relocate. As displacement occurred, some aldermen saw their base of political support decrease because their constituencies were forced to relocate throughout the city, meaning the effects of declining neighborhoods were affecting aldermen’s political careers.8 To complicate matters, the legal definitions of redevelopment were becoming ambiguous, and the federal government became concerned that urban renewal policy should become a unified set of directives and objectives for the nation. In the late-1950s, Milwaukee’s declining tax base became the major concern for the Common Council, and this issue was influential in changing opinions in the council to support redevelopment plans. However, many aldermen believed that this would mean more public housing, which is housing owned by the government and rented at low prices to those in need. To those aldermen, the city did not need more public housing, especially because
  4. 4. 4 Milwaukee’s outer wards refused to accept relocation housing or support new public housing that resulted from the many city-sponsored urban renewal projects.9 Milwaukee’s Common Council became concerned about whether or not Milwaukee could, in fact, develop a long-term, “workable” plan for redevelopment with its own resources.10 A workable plan might need assistance from the state level. Mayor Frank Zeidler with the help of Wisconsin State senator Henry Maier took action and began lobbying the State legislature to consider changing the “statutes to allow for the creation of an independent [Redevelopment] Authority,…which would be solely concerned with the implementation of redevelopment projects in the city.”11 As a result of the lobbying, Governor Vernon Thompson convened a special session of legislature in June 1958. This special session debated urban renewal legislation that would allow for the creation of urban authorities, “vested with the power to condemn slum clearance project lands without a jury verdict of necessity as required by the state constitution.”12 The special session also targeted the matter of eminent domain – property owner rights versus the need for city governments to engage in redevelopment for the betterment of their entire cities. Eminent domain was an urban renewal instrument to reclaim private property for civic projects; this issue is another reason why urban renewal has been approached with such criticism and debate. The issue of eminent domain stemmed from the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case Berman vs. Parker. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the “general welfare” powers of Congress authorized eminent domain to “remedy [slum] conditions injurious to health, safety, and morals.”13 In June 1958, Wisconsin passed redevelopment legislation in Madison. This new legislation led to Milwaukee’s Common Council passing a resolution “pursuant to the new legislative
  5. 5. 5 directives” that declared the need for “blight elimination, slum clearance[,] and urban renewal projects” (the debate of eminent domain, however, continued into 1960).14 “The new law established that the [m]ayor…should give due consideration to the general interest [of those affected by] a redevelopment, slum clearance[,] or urban renewal program[,]” particularly those to be relocated.15 The new Redevelopment Authority was established under Mayor Frank Zeidler as a seven-member board appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Common Council. The authority acted as the City’s agent in redevelopment, and it worked cooperatively between public and private interests. Because it worked between both interests, questions eventually arose over its true role in Milwaukee’s political arena. The authority was one of three independent citizen boards (Housing Authority, Redevelopment Authority, and Planning Commission) that businesses looked to in the 1950s as an agent to sponsor plans for inner-city revitalization because it was an independent corporation established by the State legislature, operable “outside of normal [local] government channels.”16 This was important because Zeidler had a rather uncooperative relationship with Milwaukee’s business community.17 Under Milwaukee’s new resolution that created the Redevelopment Authority, the mayor recommended members for the authority; however, he had to negotiate his appointments through the Common Council. Daniel C. McCarthy wrote, Not only this, but the law allowed the [c]ouncil to appoint up to two of its members to the [seven-]member board. The tradition of Milwaukee’s ‘weak mayor’ system allowed the [c]ouncil to flex its political muscles. Mayor Zeidler[,] therefore[,] faced the immediate task of finding suitable appointees, who would be confirmed by the [c]ouncil, yet who would also represent the broad spectrum of interests outlined in the legislative directive [– members from the general public, labor, industry, finance or business groups, and civic organizations].18
  6. 6. 6 Unfortunately, the general public usually had limited knowledge of redevelopment processes, so it was often excluded. A continued lack of community involvement was a growing problem for Milwaukee’s future; through the tense decades of the 1950s to the 1970s, Milwaukee leaders repeatedly failed to properly consider public opinion regarding the City’s redevelopment matters. Zeidler firmly believed that Milwaukee needed an urban renewal program, but he had to satisfy both the Common Council and the business community to effectively bring change; however, his relationship with the business community was difficult. When it came to appointing representatives to the authority, he had to make concessions to the Common Council and the business community. He had to work closely with the council in getting the Redevelopment Authority passed, and the council had to confirm the mayor’s appointments to the authority. At the same time, he was aware of the vital role the city’s business community played in redevelopment, so he had to satisfy the business leaders and improve his relationship with them. The business community knew it needed an ally to gain approval for its agenda for city redevelopment. “Initially unable to strike a viable dialogue with the [m]ayor, the business community…set about aligning itself with certain powerful interests in the Common Council[,]” which controlled the Redevelopment Authority and, ultimately, the City’s redevelopment agenda.19 As a result, Zeidler’s first appointees to the Redevelopment Authority represented his predicament in satisfying both parties; all of his appointees were connected to council or corporate interests.20 The beginning for the Redevelopment Authority in city matters was slow at first; in fact, the authority accomplished little between 1958 and 1961. For the first two years, it was held back by battles in the Wisconsin Supreme Court over whether the authority
  7. 7. 7 could exercise eminent domain. In addition, the authority lacked a full staff, and there was much confusion over its purpose. A Common Council that was still uncertain about redevelopment programs also kept it in check. Confusion over urban renewal at the national level fueled council uncertainty. The Common Council believed that federal involvement in the local political arena, particularly in matters of urban renewal, would usurp its power over city affairs. In 1958, the council learned that the federal government threatened to withdraw funds for urban renewal projects, which caused the City to skip ahead in its plans in order to “create the appropriate bureaucracy to satisfy federal requirements” and to continue receiving aid.21 The concern over the city’s declining tax base kept the Common Council on board, at least. Council suspicions intensified when Richard Perrin, director of the Housing Authority, declared in April 1958 that not all buildings in the Second Ward, or East Side A, renewal project area were blighted. This caused the council to question renewal. The Third Ward renewal project area was the subject of scrutiny and political debate, so news about the blighted buildings in East Side A puzzled a Common Council that was already quizzical over renewal’s benefits. As a result, an increased chasm formed between Mayor Zeidler and Common Council members.22 Maier became Milwaukee’s mayor in 1960, and he served until 1988. He believed that the City’s prior and existing urban renewal programs lacked local direction, so his new administration focused on renewal. But urban renewal still lacked direction from the federal government. In fact, federal guidelines for urban renewal kept changing. As the federal government began changing its area of emphasis from slum clearance and public housing to urban economic rehabilitation and tax base revitalization in 1961,
  8. 8. 8 Maier preached the positive effects of urban renewal to Milwaukeeans so that they would willingly support his future programs aimed at redevelopment.23 According to Maier, a critical problem holding back Milwaukee’s urban renewal program was a dispute between the City Planning Commission and the Redevelopment Authority over which one would be the primary planning agency to run urban renewal programs.24 This is why the mayor “concerned himself with coordinating the various [C]ity departments involved with planning and development” almost immediately after he was sworn into office.25 Maier combined the Housing and Redevelopment Authorities with the Planning Commission and the Office of Economic Development into one Department of Community Development (DCD) in 1961, and appointed Richard Perrin (confirmed by the Common Council) as the first leader of the DCD.26 Maier believed that only one planning agency was necessary. Maier’s previous six years in the State Senate gave him experience with urban renewal’s political framework.27 Because the creation of a consolidated DCD meant the removal of other director positions, it also strengthened Maier’s political control of urban issues.28 Of course, Maier’s critics claimed the mayor was attempting to control city government through the DCD.29 Since a chief executive appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Common Council guided the DCD, Maier was able to effectively push the new department to work cooperatively with the local business community, and Milwaukee’s business community, in turn, actively supported the new department.30 By trying to reverse Zeidler’s conflictive relationship with the business community, Maier sent a message to business leaders that he was willing to cooperate. In doing so, businesses
  9. 9. 9 began to take an active interest in downtown redevelopment, which was key to Maier’s program.31 “After [the DCD] was formed the guidelines for a Community Renewal Program [CRP] were created in order to bring more federal dollars into Milwaukee.”32 The CRP was a change in local planning policy within Maier’s administration, but it was not a new concept. The CRP was added to the federal redevelopment statute in 1959, “as a specific response to planning difficulties that had arisen in the early years of the renewal program.”33 The ultimate goal of the CRP was to introduce large scale renewal projects. In fact, Milwaukee was one of the first cities in the U.S. to complete its CRP in 1964, “but thereafter, it was marred by continual conflict between federal and local authorities, as well as by conflict between local neighborhoods and [the DCD].”34 The CRP plan called for citizen participation and a strategy for beautification to end Milwaukee’s blight. This program was the DCD’s agent to provide fresh insight into the city’s problems, needs, goals, and resources, especially as urban renewal was changing. At this time, neighborhood conservation and land clearance were the major strategies to achieve renewal. “Conservation was designed to halt the decline of…sound but deteriorating neighborhoods, in order to reverse the trend before clearance was necessary. Clearance…was designed to totally clear a [designated] area to provide new and modern improvements.”35 Some of the CRP’s strategies “were systematic blight elimination at a rate sufficient to catch [up] with and stay ahead of spreading blight, eliminating the worst housing conditions in the city, containing or ringing the areas with the most blight, and increasing citizen participation.”36 A 1964 CRP planning report indicated that 50 percent of Milwaukee’s total population lived in areas with a high proportion of substandard
  10. 10. 10 housing, and it called for the razing of 4,170 dilapidated houses. The DCD supported the CRP’s $30 million plan.37 Milwaukee residents did not eagerly welcome the CRP plan because they feared the effects of urban removal. For example, Kilbourntown-3 and Midtown Projects were the first major CRP projects, which were adjacent to one another and separated the inner- city from the near west side. Both projects resulted in demolition and clearance between 1964 and 1971, when the government ordered a halt in further acquisitions. Every building but one in the 104-acre Kilbourn-3 clearance project area was scheduled for demolition. The Midtown Project, which covered the area west of 27th Street between State and Vliet Streets, was the first in Milwaukee to seek a balance between rehabilitating and demolishing buildings, so preservationists hoped that many houses would be spared. What began as a “conservation” project with most of the area’s buildings slated for rehabilitation, ended with 1,700 buildings (totaling approximately 50 percent of the area’s structures) demolished. By 1975, only 340 new units had been built in Midtown.38 But because the federal government sponsored Midtown, “[o]ne of the problems that had surfaced in the Midtown experience…was that federal regulations called for specific alterations in the character of the neighborhood, and these changes offended local advocacy groups.”39 A neighborhood coalition called the Midtown Neighborhood Association (MNA) sought to preserve the neighborhood’s structures and to maintain the area’s urban character. Unfortunately for Midtown, the MNA was unable to accomplish any of these goals during the 1960s and 1970s, thanks, in part, to a lack of preservation legislation and government-sponsored protection. In 1960, the MNA had petitioned the City for assistance in maintaining the character of the Midtown
  11. 11. 11 neighborhood, but federal regulations required changes to various buildings. This ultimately compromised the neighborhood’s character, upsetting the MNA members.40 Maier’s interest in eliminating Milwaukee’s blight translated into promoting redevelopment that involved land clearance.41 Affected neighborhoods stood little chance of survival in a city with a mayor-business community alliance, especially after the DCD adopted a controversial urban renewal policy in mid-1964 that called for the razing of blighted neighborhoods.42 Under Maier, redevelopment projects dominated Milwaukee’s landscape into the early-1960s – Marquette University Project; Midtown Conservation Area; Halyard Park District; Kilbourntown’s One, Two, and Three; East Side Juneau Village Area; and Lower Third Ward.43 “Redevelopment was essentially designed to eliminate slums, and provide for consequent re-use of cleared land with predominantly residential, yet limited commercial emphasis.”44 Clearance for expressways also helped to change Milwaukee’s landscape. Milwaukee’s leaders ordered miles of land and thousands of buildings cleared for redevelopment and expressway projects in the 1950s and 1960s, but most redevelopment projects never occurred as piles of rubble and acres of vacant land were left in the wake. Worse, redevelopment projects displaced thousands in Milwaukee, though the actual number of displaced is unknown. Maier’s renewal campaign destroyed many of Milwaukee’s significant buildings, including the Carlton Hotel, the Girl’s Club, and the David Benjamin House. It is easy to blame the DCD for the failures of redevelopment projects, but federal support/aid and clearance went hand-in-hand. Since Milwaukee actively applied for federal funding for urban renewal projects, more buildings were lost. “Even though thousands of buildings were demolished during the urban renewal era,
  12. 12. 12 most of the destruction goes unnoticed today since most of the areas are now parking lots, high rise apartment buildings, office structures, or parks.”45 The 1960s were a “new Dark Age” for cities, and additional national programs – New Frontier, Great Society, Economic Development Administration, War on Poverty, and Model Cities – brought about a period of human renewal in which programs for rehabilitating human behavior joined those for reconstructing buildings, transportation facilities, and the urban infrastructure. Largely financed by the federal government’s War on Poverty program, human renewal attacked issues pertaining to disadvantaged urbanites with the same confidence that characterized the earlier physical renewal schemes.46 Eventually, the federal government focused more on social and physical decay with proposals geared at stimulating investment in depressed cities and neighborhoods; these proposals began to replace active welfare programs designed to directly remedy poverty through a redistribution of surplus.47 Furthermore, several bills (1967) actually gave tax credits and deductions to businesses willing to locate in depressed inner cities.48 When U.S. cities failed to rebound from decline during the 1960s, U.S. leaders grew more willing to lend an ear to preservation ideas and tactics. And preservationists saw in the unresolved urban renewal matters their chance to make a case for preservation as a way to renew cities. On October 15, 1966, Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which emphasized a new approach to urban renewal – preservation.49 Along with the NHPA, the 89th Congress also passed the Department of Transportation Act, which “directed the [S]ecretary of [T]ransportation to identify and avoid infringing on parkland, wildlife refuges, and other invaluable resources in
  13. 13. 13 developing our national road network[,]”50 and the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act that authorized the Housing and Urban Development agency to support preservation, something the agency had not previously done.51 The NHPA, in turn, created the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which the National Parks Service (NPS) directed. The NPS, “through its new Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, became the locus for implementation of these new initiatives.”52 In addition, the NHPA gave financial matching grants for newly- created historic preservation programs – 50 percent matching grants developed to assist with statewide surveys to formulate state historic preservation plans, which were a requirement of the act.53 It called for the Secretary of the Interior to create and expand a list of properties and structures worth preserving (now called the National Register of Historic Places) and authorized grants to the states and the National Trust.54 Following the passage of the act, Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall “decided to decentralize the preservation program under his authority and wrote to the governors of the states and territories, asking each of them to appoint an individual to carry out the law’s new responsibilities.”55 Udall’s directive triggered the formation of state historic preservation officers (SHPO) and offices in every state and in many local areas. The offices became “the heart of the national preservation program, as embodied in the [NHPA]….”56 As a result, statewide surveys of historic structures, which had been overlooked when only a single, national governing body existed, became more focused on local sites and local histories.57 Preservation was still largely a museum-oriented, volunteer-based movement until the 1960s as most preservation programs lacked major funding.58 But the NHPA was a
  14. 14. 14 milestone in the history of U.S. legislation because it marked a move away from urban renewal philosophy. Officials had begun to realize the importance of preserving the past and that preservation was growing as a movement. The National Trust for Historic Preservation grew in membership, and the NHPA led to massive education efforts about national landmarks (i.e., literature, workshops, and seminars). When the U.S. celebrated its Revolutionary Bicentennial in 1976, renewed hope for preserving the historical past followed, sparking citizen awareness. Officials hoped that by celebrating 200 years in U.S. history, governments and citizens would gain a respect for preservation.59 The period of human renewal that began in the 1960s spurred a variety of community programs. It included community development corporations (CDC), which grew out of the political turmoil and policies of the 1960s as community activists formed organizations to gain local control over federal, state, and municipal efforts to revitalize their neighborhoods (about 100 CDCs had been formed in the U.S. by 1970; by 1990, over 2,200 nonprofit CDCs were involved in housing and economic improvement activities in cities).60 CDCs were established to help organize associations of neighborhood merchants, administer loan funds for facade improvements by local merchants, work with local governments to plant trees and expand parking facilities, and tackle major commercial projects to redevelop downtowns. Some created industrial parks to attract new businesses, some created downtown malls, while others directed employment training to help low-income individuals market themselves to potential employers. Most CDCs negotiated with powerful private and public institutions to guarantee that local residents and adjacent communities received a share of the jobs and business created by high-impact development projects such as sports complexes or
  15. 15. 15 convention centers, or by the expansion of university or medical complexes. In the process, they educated the public about urban issues that affected their neighborhoods, conducted research on social problems, and lobbied government officials. Their efforts recognized that revitalizing the intangible asset of community fabric and community relationships aided in attracting businesses and residents to a certain location, particularly areas most devastated by urban decline.61 The rise in preservation legislation, officials at national and state levels, and other initiatives marked the initial move toward a framework for community organizations such as the Historic Third Ward Association (HTWA), although it would be another decade before the association would be formed. The next section describes how HTWA’s eventual formation was the product of both national and local preservation programs. The Backlash Against Demolition and the Move Toward Preservation While the previous section set the stage for preservation, this section shows how many communities, organizations, and individuals stepped forth to oppose razing. Preservationists looked to save the country from bulldozers and to preserve its past for future generations. Many looked around and saw their cities, histories, and cultural identities lost to failed urban renewal policies. At first, preservationists were seen by political systems as “pariahs, fighting alone against the federal government and assorted city powers, with few resources other than a belief in historic buildings and their social value.”62 But as the preservation movement grew in strength, the federal government finally heard local residents’ pleas for an end to demolition, and federal urban renewal programs once again changed. In fact, the destructive era of renewal gradually started coming to end in the late-1960s and early-1970s because the emphasis of renewal shifted
  16. 16. 16 to a more conservative approach as urban conservation replaced urban renewal by the mid-1970s.63 What was happening elsewhere in the U.S. regarding preservation directly affected Milwaukee’s Third Ward. Community organizations such as the HTWA formed as a result of community mobilization. Milwaukee shifted its renewal strategy from demolition to preservation. And because of the respect that preservation finally received at the national level, organizations like the HTWA were able to include historic preservation strategies aimed at economic revitalization. Many cities across the country were engaging in demolition and clearance plans in the 1960s. As mentioned before, Milwaukee’s redevelopment campaign cost thousands of displacement victims their neighborhoods and homes, creating an increased rift between City Hall and residents, and Milwaukee’s political leaders were criticized. This became an opportunity to save Milwaukee’s history through the retention of architecture and smarter land use choices.64 This proactive movement was fueled, in part, by the understanding that preserving old buildings was practical as well as culturally enriching. At the same time, a dislike for the architecture of the present, including shopping malls, commercial strips, high rise apartment complexes, office and industrial parks, and the federal government’s ambitious highway program bolstered the movement. Preservationists looked around and saw a lack of character, variety, and purpose in new buildings.65 Because Milwaukee was relatively conservative in redevelopment matters, preservationists saved many more buildings compared to other major U.S. cities that enacted more aggressive urban renewal programs. But Milwaukee also had more structures worth saving than other cities of its size.66
  17. 17. 17 Under Maier’s leadership, renewal projects that had been started under Zeidler, such as the Hillside community, were pushed to completion during the 1960s. Maier also encouraged the transformation of sizable sections of Milwaukee, such as clearing land for the development of Juneau Village, downtown’s first luxury high-rise apartment complex. Maier also eliminated any nonconforming uses of Marquette University’s campus and paved the way for the opening of the Haymarket area on the city’s north side to industrial and commercial redevelopment. Rather than rehabilitate buildings, officials insisted on reducing every project to rubble and starting again from scratch. But these projects were only a drop in the bucket; only approximately 250 acres in Milwaukee had been redeveloped, barely ten percent of the acreage had been cleared for county expressways.67 The poor planning for Milwaukee’s undeveloped land was beginning to anger preservationists and Milwaukee residents alike, so much, in fact, that the preservation movement gained momentum. By the late-1960s, some Milwaukeeans became convinced that post-WWII developments in the city such as freeways and road systems had undone much of the city’s historic fabric. As City officials failed to seek input from the community about renewal, more anger ensued. This led to a conflict between the City with preservationists on the West side and Sicilians in the Third Ward, who saw their pink Blessed Virgin of Pompeii Church vanish for freeway expansion. The overwhelming belief by those opposed to the City’s policies and actions was that urban renewal translated into urban removal.68 Opponents of renewal began speaking out against the destruction of the historic fabric of many of the nation’s urban districts. This, in turn, further fueled the growing preservation movement – “urban renewal drove the
  18. 18. 18 preservation movement’s rapid growth. [The more cities adopted urban renewal], the more preservationists grew in numbers to oppose it.”69 In 1963, the Redevelopment Authority presented its plans for Milwaukee’s Juneau Village renewal project. Milwaukee’s Redevelopment Authority received more than $1 million in federal grants to proceed with this project; however the proposed site included Inbusch Apartments, which housed members of the arts community and was considered a prime example of historic architecture. Eleanor Bell, one of Milwaukee’s first preservationists, appeared before the Development Committee and Milwaukee’s Common Council to save the complex, but it was too late – Richard Perrin, Commissioner of the Department of Community Development, stated the appeal was too late because federal grant money had already been allocated. Sensitive to Bell’s request, Perrin did suggest that a commission be created to protect historically-significant landmarks in the city. Perrin’s suggestion, in turn, resulted in the formation of the Milwaukee Landmarks Commission (MLC), which received approval from the Common Council. Perrin served as head of both the DCD and the MLC, which complicated his assignment because the two groups failed to cooperative at first, and each worked toward different goals.70 The preservation community viewed the MLC as a significant contribution to the preservation of Milwaukee’s historic fabric and to the fight against urban renewal. The Milwaukee County Historical Society could not guarantee the protection of historic structures; thus, it needed an ally with more political influence.71 Preservationists hoped that MLC could exercise political power to protect historic structures. The reality is that the MLC set standards to determine the buildings that were worth preserving, but it
  19. 19. 19 lacked the political backing to maintain the structures, so nothing guaranteed that buildings would be preserved. Consider, for example, the situation with Milwaukee’s North Western Railroad Depot. Located at 915 E. Wisconsin Avenue, the depot was designed in 1889 by Charles Frost of Chicago. Composed of brick and granite, the depot was considered a fine example of U.S. railroad architecture, and preservationists deemed it worth preserving. The Milwaukee County Parks Commission acquired the station in 1964 under a federal grant to provide open space for parks along the lakefront and for expressway development. In 1966, the last train left the depot to make room for a proposed lakefront expressway. The County Park Superintendent claimed the depot was unfixable, but Eleanor Bell of Land Ethics, Inc., a preservation group that Bell formed in 1964 to protect the historical and architectural buildings in Wisconsin, claimed it could be easily fixed. Bell’s group proposed alternatives to save the depot, resulting in a four- year battle. In 1968, the City’s Building Inspection Department ordered that the structure be repaired or razed within 30 days. A public hearing was held to support saving the structure, but few attended. When individuals looked to the MLC to intervene, the sad reality was that it possessed no power to override such decisions. In fact, the MLC only held advisory power, which it had already practiced during its four-year battle with the Superintendent.72 In addition to the depot, the MLC fought the razing of Blessed Virgin of Pompeii Church in the Third Ward. In February 1967, the congregation asked the MLC to designate the building as a landmark, hoping to prevent the Expressway Commission from approving plans to build a freeway through the Italian Third Ward community. Sensing that little could stop the Expressway Commission, Perrin, director of the MLC,
  20. 20. 20 agreed to help relocate the church. “Relocating the church [was a real] concern of the archdiocese because they did not feel an adequate number of parishioners would stay with the parish if it were relocated to another site.”73 The pastor at nearby St. Rita’s offered his parish as a home to the members of Pompeii; however, he may have acted because the City offered St. Rita’s and the archdiocese $95,540 as a renewal benefit. In October 1967, Pompeii Church was razed. Making matters worse, the building was looted before demolition.74 According to Joyce Lynn Knippel, [MLC]…had all the right ingredients to obtain power, although in reality it had none. Initially, when the [c]ommission was established the members were selected to represent prestigious institutions, but during the first five years, it became evident that the [c]ommission lacked the clout necessary to influence the future of historically significant structures in Milwaukee.75 Not only did the MLC have to fight to save Milwaukee’s historic structures, but it had to fight for more power. Maier refused Perrin’s request for a new ordinance that would give the MLC more power to prevent demolition of historic structures. Maier had not cooperated with the MLC since its beginning. To show his lack of support for the MLC, Maier even amended the 1964 ordinance that created the MLC, now requiring all new MLC members to reside in Milwaukee city limits, which resulted in every member except one being dismissed and, thereby, reduced the power of the commission. After Maier caused the MLC to disband when he amended the 1964 ordinance, the mayor then appointed new members to the commission, often choosing those with limited political backgrounds. “Maier’s office kept a tight lid on the power of the [c]ommission so as not to let them interfere with his plans for redevelopment.”76 In fact, many believed that Maier disliked Perrin on a personal level and that is why the mayor failed to cooperate with the MLC. When the Common Council passed an ordinance to form a permanent
  21. 21. 21 MLC in May 1967, the mayor’s office never even activated the ordinance, which was viewed as a deliberate move by Maier to avoid recognizing the MLC. During Maier’s administration, the MLC struggled to have any influence in Milwaukee’s urban renewal plans, much less protect Milwaukee’s structures from demolition. Maier’s plans for urban renewal gained a boost when Perrin resigned from positions on both boards in 1971 (MLC and DCD).77 Perrin had served as the leader of the DCD since its creation in 1961; when he announced his resignation in 1971, Perrin was considered one of the city’s “most outspoken and powerful department heads.”78 But he was under great pressure to coordinate the growing redevelopment program in Milwaukee. “Whereas Perrin had once viewed the federal public housing program…and early urban renewal program…as beneficial to city development, by 1971 his position had changed”79 because the federal Model Cities program attempted to incorporate citizen input and community control over the redevelopment process as new planning mechanisms, which clashed with the “bureaucratic centralization of planning activities” that Maier had worked toward since 1960.80 William Ryan Drew, former Common Council president, took over for Perrin on the DCD. Drew worked to improve the ties between the DCD and the Common Council. His connection with Maier proved to be a link between the mayor and the redevelopment process in the city.81 Mary Ellen Pagel replaced Perrin on the MLC. The MLC changed when Perrin resigned in 1971. Members of the MLC began to identify and promote cultural items in Milwaukee that were tied to past events and historical locations. The MLC also took another approach by establishing educational programs consisting of slide shows, art exhibits, and lectures to raise awareness of its mission and the importance of historic preservation. “The [c]ommissioners knew they
  22. 22. 22 had no power to protect buildings from demolition, but they continued to make attempts to change the ordinance.”82 The commission’s lack of influence was once again demonstrated when a fight ensued over Northwestern Mutual Life’s (NML) razing of the Elias Friend House. The MLC believed the house was significant enough for preservation. NML disagreed, and it sought outside expert architectural opinions. In fact, NML offered to sell the house for $1 to any person interested in moving the house for restoration at another site. NML believed this would indicate a true measure of public support for the building, but no one bought it. The house was razed on September 3, 1974. The MLC did not push the issue further. Rather than save one building, the MLC simply believed that NML was too strong as a business and that it was more important to avoid conflict with a major corporation that contributed an enormous tax base and had members on political boards that influenced Milwaukee’s development.83 A second, similar situation that proved the MLC’s lack of power and influence involved the Third Ward’s Commission Row buildings (305-346 N. Broadway). The MLC first proposed the buildings for landmark designation in 1972, “reconsidered again in 1974 at the request of the Urban Real Design Group, and again in 1975 at the request of [c]ommission member, Elenaor Bell.”84 The DCD along with district alderman Kevin O’Connor strongly opposed MLC interference in development matters. O’Connor stated that the DCD had plans to redevelop the area using federal dollars to either sell the land to private developers or raze the buildings for a parking structure. The objectives of the DCD were largely development/profit driven, whereas the MLC sought preservation work. On May 16, 1975, the MLC again backed down and voted not to designate Commission Row as a landmark. O’Connor then negotiated with the mayor’s office and
  23. 23. 23 the Common Council in December 1975 to amend the MLC ordinance with further restrictions. With more limits on its power, the MLC could accomplish even less. Like Perrin before her, Mary Ellen Pagel resigned. The MLC did not nominate any buildings as landmarks in 1976.85 Pagel’s successor was James Boerner, an architect for the Department of Buildings and Bridges. William Ryan Drew first appointed Boerner to the MLC in 1974; Boerner was able to assume leadership of the MLC with Pagel’s resignation. In his opinion, he was appointed to “redirect the [c]ommission towards governmental procedures and to work closely with the mayor’s office and the DCD.”86 In 1978, the Water Tower Trust Landmark Preservation organization went to the MLC with opposition to the expansion of St. Mary’s Hospital into their neighborhood. The organization requested an ordinance be passed to protect their area from future development. The ordinance would restrict “the right of property owners to make changes on their buildings without the approval of a government body, if the properties were of historical value.”87 While the ordinance was greeted with much criticism by Milwaukee’s City departments, Alderman Sandra Hoeh requested that the city attorney’s office draft Wisconsin State legislation that would allow Milwaukee to write its own law. In June 1980, the Wisconsin State Legislature passed legislation: any first class city, as an exercise of zoning and police powers, to protect by ordinance any place or structure with historic significance or aesthetic value and that the city could create a [l]andmarks [c]ommission to designate landmarks and historic districts as needed.88 This legislation paved the way for a new City ordinance that was drafted in December 1980 to include the entire city, rather than creating a new district to protect the Water Tower area. “[On] June 16, 1981[,] the Common Council repealed Section 2-335 of the
  24. 24. 24 Code of Ordinances relating to…[MLC] and replaced it with a new section creating the new Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission” (HPC).89 The HPC, consisting of nine citizens appointed by Milwaukee’s mayor and a small staff provided by the DCD, was placed in charge of determining the structures, sites, and districts that possessed architectural, cultural, or historic significance, as well as the properties worth designating as historic sites.90 Following surveys by the HPC, owners of the historic structures or sites were required to submit to the HPC for review any proposed changes that could affect the exterior appearance of the properties; changes had to be consistent with the rest of the architecture on the buildings and in the area. If approved, a Certificate of Appropriateness was issued. If the HPC did not approve the proposed changes, a hearing was scheduled to discuss maintaining the historic integrity of the structures and to reach an agreement with the owner. Any appeals were directed toward the Common Council, which could reverse or modify the HPC’s decision by a two-thirds majority vote. The HPC possessed more power than the MLC since the historic designations given out by the MLC were simply honorary.91 “[W]hen the new [HPC] ordinance became effective in 1981, all of the buildings which had been nominated by the previous [MLC] were no longer considered landmarks under the new jurisdiction.”92 The creation of the HPC pleased the preservation community, which finally had a convincing, politically-backed voice for change. While the MLC was seen as a failure on many levels, its work in pinpointing many of the city’s historically-significant buildings for later preservation, educating the local public about preservation, and raising awareness about the need to save Milwaukee’s past had lasting effects on future programs.93
  25. 25. 25 The creation of the HPC was a victory for the preservation community because the new group possessed more power that could discourage demolition and redevelopment in Milwaukee. Maier saw the formation of the HPC as interfering with his plans for Milwaukee’s redevelopment. He had created Milwaukee’s reputation as a city that worked carefully and cooperatively with developers (and businesses). He had formed the DCD in 1961 so he could appoint a commissioner as head of the department who would be in agreement with his plans. The DCD was designed to handle city planning, so Maier disliked MLC and HPC interference because they stood in the way of DCD-organized developments.94 The work of the MLC and its follow-up, the HPC, allowed historic preservation to grow in popularity and awareness. As cities across the U.S. embarked upon similar preservation strategies, federal involvement also grew through the 1970s. New federally- funded organizations formed, and “preservationists began dealing with city edges, waterfronts, parks, sculpture[s], and street furnishings as well as buildings” through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which had formed in 1965 as a small, federal agency to preserve this country’s cultural and artistic traditions.95 In addition, many private preservation groups that focused on specific architectural interests formed, such as the Victorian Society of America and Friends of Cast Iron Architecture. As these new groups formed in the U.S., they looked to other countries for guidance and effective tactics in preservation, uniting preservationists globally. Whether these groups were formed to preserve whole cities or simply to save specific structures, preservation was moving forward.96
  26. 26. 26 In 1973, Carolyn Stephens, a Milwaukee Downer alumna, formed the Committee for the Renovation of the Downer Buildings to save the Downer College buildings on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). Built between 1899 and 1913, these buildings represented English Tudor domestic Gothic styles and were composed of red sandstone and St. Louis pressed brick. UWM purchased the closing Downer College in 1964 and scheduled demolition for 1973. Composed of private individuals, Stephens’ committee set out to save Holton, Merrill, Johnston, and Greene Halls, as well as the Greene Museum. The committee raised $35,000 for repairs of interior ornamentation, and it worked with various state and local agencies, such as the State Historical Preservation Board, for preservation of the exteriors. In 1974, the committee got the buildings accepted on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1977, UWM’s System Board of Regents approved their renovation for $5 million.97 In addition to UWM’s buildings, other local projects were a result of dedicated independent groups. Preservation groups saved the Pabst Theatre (144 E. Wells Street), Tivoli Palm Garden (500 W. National Avenue), and the Grain Exchange Room in the Mackie Building (225 W. Michigan Avenue). The Grain Exchange was, perhaps, the most significant as it was nationally recognized for its gilded archways, stained glass, and murals from Edward Townsend Mix’ 1879 design in the Italian Renaissance Revival Style. The Grain Exchange was originally used when Milwaukee had become the largest wheat market in the world, but it fell into disrepair in the 1930s when the wheat market crashed along with the depressed economy.98 As these independent groups began stepping forward, an awareness of local preservation continued to grow. Let’s See Magazine (1956-1964) added to the local
  27. 27. 27 preservation movement when it printed bold statements against urban renewal. Its “Let’s Save the Pieces” campaign urged Milwaukeeans to stop urban renewal before buildings were gone, and it suggested the formation of an official archive for architectural art and ornamentation of buildings. In addition, it called for the photography of all Milwaukee buildings along with saving their architectural blue-print plans, specifications, and documents. Richard Perrin, the first director of the MLC, contributed to the early local preservation movement when he wrote Historic Wisconsin Buildings, A Survey of Pioneer Architecture, 1835-1870 (1962), which was aimed at preventing further destruction of state buildings. In April 1964, the Milwaukee Art Center played a role when it showed “Heritage Milwaukee,” which featured photographs of historic buildings and their artifacts and blueprints. Walking tour guidebooks by Mary Ellen Young (nee Pagel) and Virginia Palmer focused on Juneatown, Kilbourntown, and Walker’s Point; these books published between 1965 and 1973 highlighted the architecture in those areas. Perrin later wrote Milwaukee Landmarks, An Architectural Heritage[,] 1850-1959 (1968). In addition, H. Russell Zimmerman took over 13,000 slides of historic buildings in Milwaukee. Basing his follow-up works on these slides, he proceeded to give lectures, write articles, and publish The Heritage Guidebook, Landmarks and Historical Sites in Southeastern Wisconsin (1976). Perrin again aided the preservation movement by writing Milwaukee Landmarks, Revised and Enlarged (1979). Perrin had learned from his time as city planning commissioner that demolition was not the best strategy for cities like Milwaukee. Most importantly, more local landmark commissions were authorized, such as the Milwaukee County Landmarks Commission in 1974 and the Wauwatosa Landmarks Commission in 1978. Preservation-related groups that were not linked with
  28. 28. 28 the State Historical Society’s Historic Preservation Division formed, such as the Bay View Historical Society in 1979. These paved the way for the HTWA.99 In 1976, the federal government passed the Tax Reform Act, which balanced the incentives and disincentives of owning depreciable historic property. In essence, these changes made it economically attractive for a developer to recycle existing historic building stock rather than demolish it for reimbursement, which previous tax laws allowed.100 Designed to make it financially-advantageous for owners to preserve buildings, the Tax Act allowed owners of rehabilitated structures to depreciate the cost basis of the buildings as if they were new. This permitted the cost of certified rehabilitation to be written off or amortized over six months, rather than over the entire remaining life of the structure. Prior to Tax Reform, one could deduct the demolition costs and the remaining undepreciated basis of the buildings as current expenses, as long as the properties were not acquired for demolition. But high costs for restoration caused historic preservation to be slowed until Tax Reform gave developers more profitable incentives and options for preserving.101 After the legislation, “the demolition[-]related costs had to be added to the value of the land and offered no benefit until the sale of the property. Thus, the after tax cost of demolition to the owner of an historic structure was increased.”102 Tax Reform also imposed penalties for demolition of certified historic structures.103 Finally, the Tax Act “prompted the secretary of the interior in 1977 to develop the Standards for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings. These have become the basis for much restoration and rehabilitation practice around the country.”104 Still, guidelines for tax credit were complicated for investors and the Internal Revenue Service. In 1981, the Reagan administration passed the Economic Recovery Tax Act (ERTA). In it, the Internal Revenue Code was revised to add a new accelerated
  29. 29. 29 cost recovery system, to repeal existing incentives for the rehabilitation of certified structures, and to substantiate a new three-tiered investment tax credit for rehabilitation. It also allowed tax credits of 25 percent, plus a 15-year straight line capital cost recovery period. Unfortunately, few in Milwaukee could find economic advantage with the ERTA. “[Tax] credits have not been very lucrative in Milwaukee because it is difficult to locate buildings which are eligible for the certification.”105 Milwaukee buildings cost too much for investment purposes, since they are in relatively good condition and generally need little work. To qualify for the ERTA, buildings must be on the National Register of Historic Places, and they must be contributing structures in an historic district and meet the Secretary of Interior’s rigid standards, which could discourage investors.106 Because ERTA qualifications could be confusing and discouraging to investors, owners began to combine tax credits with other types of creative financing to make projects successful. Milwaukee’s Grand Avenue project is an example of owners and developers using creative financial packages for a rehabilitation project. In October 1977, the Milwaukee Redevelopment Corporation announced plans to redevelop the Grand Avenue retail center, using government-funded incentives. Plans involved the “use of creative incentives and disincentives…arranged by [the DCD].”107 According to Joyce Lynn Knippel, [the DCD] prepared the application for the [federal] Urban Development Action Grant [UDAG], worked on the design of the mall, prepared the Tax Incremental Financing [TIF], and worked with the Redevelopment Authority to acquire property for clearance and demolition. [It] also provided clearance of acquired property, the installation of public improvements, the construction of parking structures and the public concourse areas of the mall, and improvements to streets around the area.108
  30. 30. 30 The Grand Avenue project was financed through a combination of private funds, Milwaukee Redevelopment Corporation funds, historic tax credits, UDAG, and TIF. In 1977, President Carter encouraged the UDAG program to further target slum areas through low-income developments.109 The State of California first passed a TIF law in 1952. Through the 1960s and 1970s, TIF laws spread throughout the U.S. as a way to encourage economic development. At Grand Avenue in 1977, TIF allowed the city to pay “public costs for the retail center with property tax revenues that resulted from the increased value.”110 Furthermore, Milwaukee’s Theater District on N. Water Street also used historic tax credits and development incentives in the 1980s. “The financial package [was] one of the most sophisticated packages ever put together with commitments from federal, municipal, and private sources.”111 Tax incentives allowed more people to save more structures. By saving more structures, the local economy was actually helped, reversing the negative trend of urban renewal. Knippel has stated that [t]he benefits from rehabilitation have been in the form of increased property tax bases and revenues, support of the commercial business segment, the recreation of a community atmosphere, increased use of utility systems, a feeling of community identity, and pride of ownership. …Projects contribute to the labor market.112 Because preservation projects are extremely labor-intensive, almost 75 percent of the project costs go directly to pay for labor, whereas new construction is a 50/50 relationship with half going toward labor and the other half toward construction materials. Money for rehabilitation projects goes directly into the local economy for local employment, goods, and services, and to support commerce; in addition, rehabilitation benefits investors, who might not otherwise be attracted to local areas
  31. 31. 31 devoid of rehabilitation because economic gain in such places is difficult to achieve. “[The] cost of adaptive reuse is [generally] from 30 to 40 percent less than the cost of new construction.”113 While not every situation is the same in terms of project costs, adaptive reuse “falls within an overall range less costly than new construction” thanks, in part, to lower structural and mechanical expenses.114 Preservation Spurs Revitalization, Formation of Historic Third Ward Association By the 1970s, most cities’ attempts to spur urban redevelopment through demolition and reconstruction had failed. This caused city leaders to reevaluate their redevelopment programs. While Mayor Maier had always been devoted to economic redevelopment, he, too, reevaluated his urban agenda. According to Harry H. Anderson and Frederick I. Olson in Milwaukee: At the Gathering of the Waters, [the] major thrust of [Maier’s] economic development program [was] commercial and industrial expansion and rebuilding to maintain retail sales and employment levels but also to rebuild such older areas as the downtown and the Menomonee Valley and to develop the newly[- ]annexed and more lightly[-]settled fringes of the city.115 Activated citizens and business owners at the neighborhood level and community organization members understood that most city leaders and urban renewal authorities could never truly revitalize cities; it might have to begin with the neighborhoods themselves.116 Urban renewal philosophy was changing drastically. City leaders shifted their tactics and began denouncing large scale clearance, redevelopment, and proposed superhighways that threatened to slash through cities’ hubs. At the heart of these new beliefs was the need to encourage public and private reinvestment to give cities new life.117 To Pamela Plumb in Past Meets Future, “[w]ithout reinvestment, communities will decay and die, and so will their history.”118 This new approach supported the
  32. 32. 32 formation of many community organizations, grassroots action, and a focus on the urban neighborhood. Some city leaders looked to restoring mass transit systems, which had been the skeleton of America’s healthy urban body during the early 1900s, with neighborhoods serving as mass transit’s flesh and blood. Considered a way to rehabilitate older neighborhoods, the restoration of mass transit received further support in the 1970s due to issues over fuel and the federal government’s encouragement.119 By the 1970s, Milwaukee’s downtown resembled downtowns across much of the U.S. where renewal was largely unsuccessful – it became poorer and was sparsely settled, crime increased, and civic pride was lacking. The downtown area ultimately unraveled into a dirty urban core. Failed programs pushed away many residents or displaced them. This often stretched into the neighboring downtown wards. Author Alexander von Hoffman indicated that many cities across the U.S., including Los Angeles and Boston, uprooted thousands of residents from their homes during the redevelopment phase of urban renewal, thus destroying working-class neighborhoods. In the Historic Third Ward, this happened primarily before the 1970s, with the construction of freeways and the destruction of vacant, historic buildings.120 Urban renewal’s own blight also created opportunities for pornographic businesses to move into vacant ward properties. The invasion by “red light,” pornographic businesses in the Third Ward was the epitome of urban decline. In 1976, adult bookstores threatened to creep into the Third Ward to the dismay of property owners and the few remaining residents. Even a City official suggested designating the Third Ward as a “red light” district because not many lived in the “dilapidated warehouse district” and “few people worked there.”121 Fearing the worst for
  33. 33. 33 their beloved, historic-natured neighborhood, residents waged a protest against the Third Ward becoming a “red light” district.122 Ward loyalists kept the area alive by community action and civic pride – during the late 1970s, business owners joined together to successfully combat a proposed ‘red light’ district in the neighborhood. Their dedication and spirit helped renew interest in the district's potential commercial viability[,] and entrepreneurs began to renovate the dilapidated buildings. This, in turn, attracted residents and new types of businesses.123 A notable community organization, the Historic Third Ward Association (HTWA), formed in 1976, though the Third Ward would not be “officially” recognized as an historic area until 1984. In fact, Kathy Baillargeon, former executive director of the HTWA, stated that one reason for the HTWA’s formation was to prevent the area from being transformed into such a “red light” district.124 The HTWA is a nonprofit organization formed by local property owners who realized the ward’s potential as a gentrified warehouse neighborhood with nineteenth century architecture, available for a residential component, proximity to hotels, and a strategic location between Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River. Perhaps these could springboard the ward from decline toward revitalization.125 Milwaukee’s HTWA is financially supported mostly by the Business Improvement District-2 (BID-2), which is an extension of City government; however, paid membership support (i.e., businesses, friends, and residents) also funds the association.126 The association formed to help preserve the area’s history and to guide its economic future through business retention, expansion, and recruitment by working with residents, developers, leasing agents, and schools (to name a few).127 These other involved parties also complemented the association’s main objective: “[to strengthen]
  34. 34. 34 the commercial activity in the downtown community.”128 This statement shows that the HTWA, while it had the ward’s best interests in mind, was profit-motivated. In other words, its success weighed heavily on the economic turnaround of local businesses and their increased dollars. To achieve a renewed, economically-improved HTW involved a committed effort on behalf of the HTWA and various other groups such as Renner Architects, Hunzinger Construction, and BID-2, as well as local residents, business owners, and politicians. The HTWA was seen as the engine that could keep revitalization running for this renewal project. It worked (and continues to work) with neighborhood residents, businesses, merchants, real estate developers and brokers, community organizations, and civic leaders to stimulate business activity in the area.129 For example, BID-2 “traditionally provided the strategic direction and financing for projects in the [w]ard. The HTWA,…primarily funded by…[the] BID,…provided the horsepower and creative energy for implementing goals and objectives.”130 When the HTWA formed in 1976, it was intended as a catalyst to transform the ward into an innovative, livable, exciting neighborhood, while also preserving its historic character.131 To achieve this, the HTWA documented its objectives: 1. Reinforce and enhance the historic character through renovation. 2. Encourage retail, entertainment, and other activities at the street level with office and residential use. 3. Foster compatible new developments on vacant sites. 4. Provide public improvements and facilities. 5. Improve the visual and environmental quality of the area. 6. Provide adequate parking space.132 The need to encourage reinvestment was at the root of these objectives, showing that profit was a significant factor in the preservation-revitalization strategy for the ward.
  35. 35. 35 Around the same time as the formation of the HTWA, other major U.S. cities were experiencing similar circumstances related to decline and were in need of revitalization. Reinvestment was becoming the aim for many cities. For example, promoting reinvestment in central business districts, or CBDs, was evidenced by Detroit’s Renaissance Center, Boston’s Quincy Market, and Baltimore’s waterfront and Charles Plaza developments – all of which received favorable publicity for the economic revitalization that was accomplished.133 Third Ward residents had disappeared before the association’s work began, due, in large part, to Milwaukee’s redevelopment plans, freeway construction, and the continuing economic decline of central cities. If the local government spared the homes of families or ethnic groups from demolition or reconstruction, these groups quickly grew tired of Milwaukee’s renewal plans and sought other neighborhoods, especially as Milwaukee’s wide scale plans for the future became evident. Many families were left alone in shattered neighborhoods and sought belonging in other ones. For example, the Third Ward’s Italian community was divided and displaced. With displacement, city leaders became concerned over attracting residents back to older neighborhoods. However, a new group of home-seekers began rediscovering a taste for city life, which helped relieve questions over who would move into vacant, revitalized downtown neighborhoods. New urban home-seekers were eclectic groups of all ages, races, and political loyalties. While affluent residents continued to move to the suburbs in the late-1970s and into the 1980s, this new group of home-seekers shared an aversion to the architectural blandness and social homogeneity of most post-WWII suburbs and a desire for such features as historical authenticity and architectural
  36. 36. 36 diversity. With the gradual rebirth of urban neighborhoods, more residents followed. Milwaukee’s Bay View, Walker’s Point, Brewer’s Hill, and Riverwest became targets for preservation so that revitalized residential neighborhoods could be established. In these areas, warehouses and small factories awaited conversion to condominiums, lofts, galleries, and specialty shops. The Third Ward’s warehouses and small factories were attractive, as well.134 City officials welcomed this back-to-the-city movement as a possible solution to the decline of urban areas. Some U.S. cities even took a suburb-in-the-city approach, which involved taking the conveniences of the suburbs such as shopping, dining, and residential uses and copying them within distinct urban neighborhoods. The conversion of older buildings into condos and shops in local areas like the Third Ward supported the suburb-in-the-city approach because older buildings could be rehabilitated and filled with modern conveniences without much of the hassle of new construction in sometimes already-tight city blocks.135 At the same time, lifestyles that had previously supported suburbanization were changing, which aided the back-to-the-city movement. With the baby boom era over, younger citizens were marrying later, and many young couples remained childless for longer periods of time.136 There were more young, single-adult households that sought greater involvement with downtown culture and entertainment venues – features that often lacked in suburban neighborhoods.137 Quality school systems in the suburbs were not major reasons for these new urban youths to move to or remain in suburban neighborhoods. With different goals and wants, this new group sought escape from suburban life for a more culturally-enriching experience, and many from this group began
  37. 37. 37 seeking downtown residency. In most of the older central cities during the 1970s, certain neighborhoods attracted young, middle-class, childless residents who were rehabilitating townhouses, boosting property values, and raising hopes that the long-expected back-to- the-city movement had finally arrived.138 Some looked to a city renaissance in New York City, no longer believed to “be a magnet for the poor and the homeless, but a city primarily for the ambitious and educated – an urban elite.”139 According to author Alexander von Hoffman, a Harvard historian and specialist in housing and urban affairs, the migration of upper middle-class residents to downtown neighborhoods has been one of the great forces in urban revival. Hoffman claims that middle-class newcomers have been “elevating the tone of old neighborhoods since the early twentieth century.”140 According to W. Brown Morton III in Past Meets Future, “before [WWII], such activity had been limited, for the most part, to the artistic and the rich. However, almost as a counterpoint to the wasteful roar of the bulldozers, people began returning to old neighborhoods.”141 Places such as Greenwich Village in Manhattan, Society Hill in Philadelphia, and Georgetown in Washington, D.C., had been destinations for immigrants and poor residents that now “attracted bohemians and intellectuals who savored [these areas’] old-fashioned buildings and old-world atmosphere.”142 Over time, rundown neighborhoods with their historic character became desirable residential areas again. While a small number of younger, single residents and youthful couples (many were homosexual) began living in and restoring historic buildings in the 1960s, the back-to-the-city movement gained strength in the 1970s. In the 1980s, young urban professionals, often labeled as yuppies due to their extensive materialism, joined the influx, which expanded the zone of rehabilitated residences. With
  38. 38. 38 this return to the cities, displacement became a growing concern for the less-wealthy population that inhabited the former-rundown neighborhoods into the 1980s. New waves of downtown residents arrived and spurred gentrification by driving real estate prices to “heights beyond even the reach of the original rehabilitators.”143 The Carter administration adopted reindustrialization as its motto, but President Carter continued the national government’s ineffectiveness in handling urban issues. Ronald Reagan suggested that federal aid actually contributed to urban problems rather than resolved them, and he cut back on funding for social services and urban programs. Reagan believed that the government had undercut economic vitality by collecting too many taxes to support expensive social programs and burdensome regulations.144 Later, Reagan cut federal grants and created enterprise zones, “a relatively inexpensive program that was supposed to promote private sector investment.”145 Reagan’s enterprise zone concept shared similarities with Robert Kennedy’s proposed “Kennedy Plan” of 1967, which aimed to provide tax credits and deductions for businesses locating in ghettos. The “Kennedy Plan” legislation never passed. According to authors Michael Peter Smith and Dennis R. Judd in Cities in Transformation: Class, Capital, and the State, Kennedy and Reagan’s plans advocated that [f]irms locating in specified depressed areas would have become eligible for a multitude of subsidies, including accelerated depreciation on plant and equipment, a tax deduction for the salaries of low-income resident workers, training allowances, a tax credit for the purchase of machinery and equipment, carry-back credit, credit carry-over for ten taxable years, and other subsidies.146 Out of enterprise zones grew the National Self-Sufficiency Project, the Quality of Life Initiatives, and the Minority Youth Training Initiative. “All of these programs supported and subsidized active, community-based interest organizations.”147 Despite widespread
  39. 39. 39 criticism of the Reagan administration, author Margit Mayor gave it high praise for its continued support of the 1981 formation of the National Center of Neighborhood Enterprise, “which tested and propagated the capacity of neighborhood groups to become entrepreneurial.”148 Community groups such as the HTWA became a “[legally-]required partner in bargaining structures[,]” and they were “allowed to function as conduits for community development funds.”149 Federally-sponsored groups such as the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation and private groups such as the National Community Development Association pledged support to community-based organizations, further helping their cause. A variety of nonprofit organizations also appeared to help cities. Some “were born of battles against urban renewal and highway projects, others were founded by churches to help the impoverished, and still others were started as neighborhood improvement associations.”150 Such organizations targeted the national government to reinstate lost programs, organized crime watches, built new homes and restored old ones, expanded businesses, and introduced medical clinics. Also, a new type of institution called a financial intermediary resulted from this community development movement. Philanthropic groups included the Ford Foundation and Catholic Charities, and the aforementioned community development corporations (CDC) continued to increase. These large, private intermediaries “became major financiers to the community development movement.”151 In the early-1980s, progress, recovery, and revitalization hit a snag when a recession again gripped the nation. Recession hit Milwaukee, primarily an industrial city, particularly hard. “Tens of thousands of blue-collar families had to scramble to make
  40. 40. 40 ends meet, and the community as a whole faced a seismic shift in its economic underpinnings and a disturbing challenge to its historic self-image.”152 Despite a strong manufacturing base in Milwaukee, 1980s’ interest rates rose to record highs, which encouraged foreign investment and created a strong dollar. High interest rates made it more expensive to produce goods, while the strong dollar crippled export sales. This opened the door to a flood of inexpensive foreign products. U.S. manufacturers had to charge more as their global competitors charged less. A steep decline in the market for U.S. capital goods resulted, thereby increasing unemployment.153 As unemployment added problems for the local economy, Milwaukee’s future was uncertain, creating a need for an identity transformation. By the 1980s, many Milwaukeeans believed that their city needed a new image beyond brats, beer, and bowling. It needed to adjust to the changes that were affecting its manufacturing base, its job market, and the local economy if it wanted to compete on a national scale or even exist as a respectable working city. Following the recession in the 1980s, the employees of Milwaukee’s bankrupt, moved, or struggling factories were unable to find comparable employment elsewhere, leaving them to mull over early retirement, retraining for another specialized job, or working more hours at multiple jobs to make up for the loss in income. As many men took second jobs to support their families, most women also took an active role and sought employment. Between 1979 and 1987, Milwaukee lost 28,386 jobs while the suburbs gained 33,672.154 With the national recession easing up in 1985, Milwaukee’s metropolitan employment rebounded and showed signs of growth. While earlier statistics from the recession pointed to Milwaukee’s rapid decline, the city’s industrial sector saved
  41. 41. 41 Milwaukee. Yes, the recession hit Milwaukee particularly hard, but manufacturing continued to serve the city as a backbone of strength, not allowing the city to feel the horrible effects of the recession on a worse level.155 A number of factories, foundries, and machine shops that produced steel, grey iron, bronze, brass, and aluminum were still around into the 1980s. These remaining businesses marked Milwaukee’s still-detectable strength as a major industrial center.156 The city’s industrial companies did not all die despite facing unfriendly odds; rather, on a per capita basis, Milwaukee was the third largest industrial center in the nation by 1990 behind Detroit and San Jose.157 Despite strong rebounds in the local economy, many of Milwaukee’s surviving businesses were unable to resume normal operations, especially if they wanted to survive among changes in employment in an expanding global economy. Business did not resume as usual; rather downsizing, outsourcing, automation, and re-engineering changed the look of employment in Milwaukee in the 1980s. In time, service-sector jobs appeared throughout the city and suburbs. Tax attorneys, teachers, telemarketers, and restaurants became prominent in the metro area, replacing many of the factories and providing new employment opportunities. By 1986, service jobs exceeded manufacturing employment for the first time in the city’s history. It was evident – Milwaukee’s economy was opening up to white-collar business. Temp agencies, health care services, and the food business were pushing Milwaukee to a white-collar kind of town. By 1987, Milwaukee was headed toward economic recovery, and confidence in the local economy was restored.158 Harry H. Anderson and Frederick I. Olson stated in Milwaukee: At the Gathering of the Waters that despite the growth of the suburbs
  42. 42. 42 [Milwaukee’s] office buildings [were] still the most important and prestigious ones. [Its downtown was] still headquarters for all Milwaukee utilities, its largest banks, insurance companies[,] and savings and loans operations. It still contain[ed] the chief offices of the federal, state, county[,] and city governments. It [had] the largest concentration of the community’s cultural resources and [was] the site of its most important meetings, conventions, entertainment and sporting events.159 Despite urban decline that had been affecting central cities since WWII, Milwaukee’s downtown sector actually showed signs of remaining intact. These events allowed the HTW to be transformed into a professional, white-collar district, attracting more businesses to Milwaukee’s downtown. In this relationship, Milwaukee helped the HTW, and the HTW aided future growth in the city. After successful recovery after the recession of the 1980s, it was evident that rumors of demise for U.S. cities had been premature. Despite their many problems, U.S. cities remained, and their health remained essential to the nation’s well-being.160 From 1940 to 1985, the urban core continued to serve a vital function in the U.S. economy. Beginning in the mid-1950s, office construction flourished in the aging hubs and continued with only a lull in the mid-1970s. “Billions of dollars of private investment proved that in the 1950s and 1960s[,] as well as in the 1970s and 1980s[,] downtown[s were] not washed up as…center[s] of financial institutions and business and professional services.”161 Furthermore, many central city residential neighborhoods survived four postwar decades largely unchanged (Baltimore’s Roland Park, Philladelphia’s Chestnut Hill, Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill, Cincinnati’s Hyde Park and Mount Lookout, and Minneapolis’ Lake District). What does this mean? U.S. central cities did not die; they survived in a different world than that which existed before WWII. A long-awaited city renaissance materialized as cities slowly crept back onto the national agenda. The 1980s
  43. 43. 43 marked a downtown building boom that saw the opening of festival marketplaces and the rehabilitation of some inner-city neighborhoods.162 Urban centers had scored some notable financial triumphs between 1940 and 1985. Cities found ways to obtain new sources of revenue to keep them from bankruptcy. For example, U.S. central cities had imposed income taxes, sales taxes, cigarette taxes, and other levies to enable them to reach into the pockets of the suburban commuters and recover some of the wealth that had migrated to suburbia. Also in the 1980s, central cities had successfully shifted some responsibilities to metropolitan authorities and the states, thus relieving themselves of unwanted financial burdens.163 As the 1980s moved toward recovery and progress, hindsight allowed city leaders to realize that they had been trying too hard to beat the suburbs at their game rather than be effective in adapting to their own urban problems and the changing times.164 Jon C. Teaford in The Rough Road to Renaissance: Urban Revitalization in America, 1940- 1985, indicated that prior to the 1980s, [t]he suburbs were gaining an ever increasing competitive advantage, and the central cities needed to adapt to the changing times. During the post- [WWII] era, the boom in office employment and the growth of the white- collar sector did appear to bode well for the downtown business district, offering one positive portent for the central cities. But suburban office complexes could blunt this advantage unless the central city adapted to the automobile[;] curbed crime and general disorder[;] retained white, middle- class residents[;] and pursued a public policy friendly to commercial real estate development.165 By the 1980s, Milwaukee was a city in transformation. While Milwaukee’s downtown had lost its near-monopoly on the business and professional classes, it experienced a resurgence in the professional service sector by the 1990s, with the HTW absorbing a large portion of professional jobs. The ward was part of this downtown
  44. 44. 44 renaissance. A mere 112 businesses found home there in 1985. By 1990, the HTW housed more than 250 businesses with over 5,200 employees. As the shift toward downtowns continued, Milwaukee’s HTW continued to experience growth, and it gradually transformed from an industrial-intensive economy into a professional-service sector. By the end of the 1980s, over one-third of the HTW businesses were directly related to creative or graphic arts – Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Woman Magazine, and Milwaukee Weekly were all published in HTW offices. This change toward professional service jobs paved the way for more growth.166 Despite recessions in the 1970s and 1980s, the local preservation community was also fully intact. In fact, preservationists emerged from the 1980s recession with a strong agenda fueled by the changes that were taking place in urban areas across the country.167 Thanks to the growing historic preservation movement, groups like the HPC enforced rules and policies without much public backlash because the general public and affected neighborhoods became more convinced of the necessity of preservation, especially after being exposed to urban renewal’s destruction. In fact, the outlook of preservation changed immensely since the 1960s; even the “theoretical right to use your land as you wish, provided only that you do no direct harm to others, has given way in practice to a recognition that the public itself has rights, in its cultural heritage as well as in the protection of its landscape and natural resources.”168 More importantly, the HPC helped to secure a bid for the Third Ward on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 because of the area’s unique architecture from the 36-year rebuilding campaign that followed the devastating fire of 1892. It also allowed further benefits to be introduced, helping economic revitalization to be achieved
  45. 45. 45 in a neighborhood that urban renewal tore apart. The National Register of Historic Places certified 71 buildings in a ten square-block area as the only area in Milwaukee zoned for mixed use – manufacturing, warehousing, retail, commercial and fine arts, and housing.169 With the historic certification in place, the HTWA could work to restore the area’s historic integrity and recreate an area of the city that had been vital to the local economy for so long. In time, the HTWA attracted new businesses and professionals away from the suburban appeal. This gradual transformation encouraged outsiders back into the HTW by the 1990s, and they brought along investment dollars and new hope for securing the ward’s changing identity. Despite Milwaukee’s (and the Midwest’s) declining population, single, young, childless professionals (followed by empty-nesters and retirees) continued to seek relocation in central U.S. cities, and these people aided in the identity change of urban neighborhoods. The HTW became a popular destination for this group.170 By the 1990s, theaters; dance companies; upscale retailers; fashion, jewelry, and interior design companies; art galleries featuring gallery nights; graphic design/illustration firms; a $6.4 million renovation of the former Milwaukee Terminal Building into Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design’s (MIAD) art studios, student galleries, 3-D labs, and computer graphics facilities; and a $6.8 million Italian Community Center located on the edge of the HTW all became a part of the changing, revitalized economy. Heading into the next century, signs pointed toward restoring the vibrant activity that the HTW had once experienced at the time of the great fire.171 As mentioned previously, the HTW underwent an identity transformation; however, similar transformations were occurring in cities across the country. The face of
  46. 46. 46 employment, manufacturing, and the economy completely changed. As companies engaged in global export of manufacturing to Third World sites, U.S. cities became places where business, service, and communication jobs intersected. With automation and advancements in technology, middle-income U.S. labor forces were shrinking. New jobs tended to be either highly-professional and well-paid or low-skilled and low-paid. Limited job security, career lines, and unions characterized this new employment sector – a result of small scale firms in the service sector instead of the once predominant large corporations engaged in manufacturing.172 As the class structure in central cities was transformed, a focus on the neighborhood again surfaced. Of course, much at the national and local levels went into making this renewed focus possible, but it depended on a changing urban philosophy to preserve what remained of older urban neighborhoods. This was then combined with bringing suburban conveniences to these older urban neighborhoods. In an effort to compete with the suburbs, many city leaders adopted agendas to build upon urban strengths while also incorporating various aspects from the suburbs that seemed to work. The neighborhood, an age-old concept, attracted residents toward the suburbs beginning in the early-1920s. In order to attract a new group of residents into downtown areas again, city leaders strategically reflected the neighborhood in much the same way.173 In fact, the suburb was a model for downtown revival. For example, city leaders recreated suburban shopping malls in U.S. central cities.174 Take, for example, the revival of downtown Milwaukee’s Grand Avenue Mall in 1982. Seen as a way to help a downtown that had experienced the disappearance of urban neighborhood shopping districts in the 1960s, Grand Avenue Mall aimed to bring shoppers back to the city,
  47. 47. 47 focused on the urban neighborhood, and utilized the momentum-gaining preservation movement. Grand Avenue Mall was one of Milwaukee’s earliest preservation projects resulting from government-funded incentives and 1980s legislation. Also, small, independently-owned shops began appearing again in Milwaukee. These shops, resemblances of the corner shops that used to line Milwaukee’s streets at the turn of the last century, supported the neighborhood focus. A change in local politics helped along these transformations. Mayor John Norquist (Milwaukee’s mayor from 1988 to 2003) was a leader who believed in a pedestrian-friendly, visually-stimulating city. Under his leadership, much of urban renewal’s devastation would begin to be reversed with more urban improvements and redevelopment. Headed into the next century, signs of improvement, growth, and economic prosperity seemed to be returning to cities, proving that cities were successful in competing with the suburbs. It was noted in Milwaukee: At the Gathering of the Waters that by this time, [Milwaukee’s people] realize[d] that the city’s continued prosperity, its survival as a desirable place to work[,]…live[,] and play, depend[ed]…on [their] own determination to create the kind of community [they] wanted. …Today, the power lies in their hands to decide if Milwaukee will remain productive and competitive in the emerging world economy….175 The following chapters will show specifically how the HTW was transformed from a primarily blue-collar, industrial area into a mixed-use neighborhood that includes white-collar businesses, and from a declining urban location into an area of economic revitalization and growing prosperity. The following chapters will also demonstrate how neighborhood empowerment combined with the work of the HTWA allowed for this transformation to happen. Having read through Chapter One and having been exposed to a brief history of cities, urban renewal, and preservation-oriented legislation, Chapter
  48. 48. 48 Two begins a more thorough, in-depth look at what all of this means for the local Third Ward neighborhood.
  49. 49. 49 Notes – Chapter One 1. John Gurda, The Making of Milwaukee (Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee County Historical Society, 1999), 397. 2. Cindy Loose, “Milwaukee: Something's Brewing,” Washington Post, 27 March 2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1007- 2005Mar25.html?sub=new (accessed 25 February 2006). 3. Daniel C. McCarthy, “The Quest for Authority: A Survey of the History of Milwaukee’s Redevelopment Process, 1900-1975” (master’s thesis, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1983), 54. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Joy Berman, “Demographic History of an Urban Block: North Jefferson Street from Clybourn to St. Paul: 1922-1957” (master’s thesis, University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, n.d.), 15. 7. McCarthy, 55-57. 8. Ibid. 9. Ibid. 10. Ibid. 11. Ibid., 57. 12. Ibid. 13. Ibid., 59. 14. Ibid., 61, 80. 15. Ibid., 62. 16. Ibid., 7. 17. Ibid., 3, 5, 7. 18. Ibid., 62. 19. Ibid., 63.
  50. 50. 50 20. Ibid., 62-65. 21. Ibid., 65. 22. Ibid., 53, 55, 61, 62, 65, 69. 23. Ibid., 80-81. 24. Joyce Lynn Knippel, “Redefining Progress: A History of Historic Preservation in Milwaukee, 1964-1984” (master’s thesis, University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, 1984), 71. 25. McCarthy, 80. 26. Ibid., 66, 67, 80, 85. 27. Knippel, 71-72. 28. Ibid.; McCarthy, 85. 29. Knippel, 73. 30. McCarthy, 85. 31. Ibid., 3, 5, 7. 32. Knippel, 73. 33. McCarthy, 86. 34. Ibid., 53, 55, 61, 62, 65, 69, 86. 35. Knippel, 74. 36. Ibid. 37. Ibid., 73-74. 38. McCarthy, 86. 39. Ibid. 40. Ibid., 86-87. 41. Gurda, 366.

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