I’ve been sitting on the pictures in this post since last October and have been mentally composing what I wanted to say about them and the area depicted. But I just never got around to writing the blog. Well today my friend Bobby Tanzilo from OnMilwaukee.com brought it back to my front lobes.

It’s been more than a generation since President Eisenhower’s Federal Interstate System carved up Milwaukee County. The continuity of the City of Milwaukee was critically injured and a number of vibrant neighborhoods were destroyed forever. Until recently the Third Ward was detached from the downtown, it took the Hoan Bridge and the 794 Parkway to really revitalize Bay View, the centrally located Park East is just now showing signs of life, and north of downtown is still suffering the aftershocks.

And the new current generation of elected officials at the county and the city have forgotten the ills of the past…and the area at street level under I-794 from the Marquette Interchange to Plankinton Ave is once again a barren desolation row made from our indifference. And here it is nearly 5 years after the official completion of the Marquette and the area remains a literal wasteland!

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I took these photos last October, but the landscape remains unchanged since then! And the amazing thing: well into August and nary a weed in sight? How the heck can that even be possible?

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Before the Marquette Interchange was rebuilt, most of this area was used as surface parking for downtown workers. And apparently the Wisconsin Department of Transportation expects similar usage going forward since they built the storm sewer gratings above grade. But no one has come forward to propose some sort of utilization for this eyesore right in the heart of downtown Milwaukee!

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There is still trash in the area but it isn’t quite as bad now as the photo above from last fall. But there is still no excuse for this area to remain underutilized and uncared for.

So why haven’t our Milwaukee County elected officials done anything? I would presume that they would be key players since they maintain the portions of the interstate that run through the county. And why aren’t the elected officials from Milwaukee’s City Hall up in arms about a ‘blighted area’ not only in downtown, but adjacent to the intermodal station and the third ward?

Now, I will grant that finding a use for the property can be problematic. A traditional park won’t work, see the note about no weeds. Permanent structures under the interstate wouldn’t be practical even if permitted. And apparently there isn’t the need for parking now as there was previously.

Well, I’ve made my point, asked my questions, and I don’t have a practical solution. But that’s where we circle back to Bobby Tanzilo. Mr. Tanzilo is asking for suggested uses for the area on the OnMilwaukee.com FaceBook page. If he writes about this on his blog, I’ll update this with the link.

update: the photos are mine…you may use them gratis…I just want the correct attribution Photos by Ed Heinzelman All Rights Reserved

update: Bobby Tanzilo’s blog

3 Responses to Milwaukee’s New Desolation Row

  1. Duane12 says:

    You bring back memories of my Milwaukee south side youth. I lived at 334 W. Scott St. when I began Kindergarten at Vieau School, now Esculea Vieau. https://www.google.com/search?q=334+w.+scott+st.+Milwaukee+WI&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

    Vieau school was named after an early French Canadian fur trader, Jacques Vieau, who helped establish a trading post near the Menomonee River in 1795. Vieau married the granddaughter of an Indian chief and had “at least twelve children.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Milwaukee .The ethnic mix at Vieau was primarily Polish with some German, no French that I remember, and only three Latino families during my elementary education days. Later our family moved to a 700 address one block north of Scott Street while attending South Division High School. It was an “A” address with our home being the rear or second house on one city lot. Today that home no longer exists having been razed for the freeway. I visited the area several years ago with a mixture of sadness and happy memories of my south side youth.

    I jokingly, but proudly, tell people today that I was a minority student of French-Canadian descent attending a Polish high school on Milwaukee’s “soutside.”

    Thanks Ed, for a trip back in time.

  2. Nick says:

    Terrorism! I seem to recall when the interchange was rebuilt that they said they would not be adding back parking underneath the interchange because fears of terrorists being able to park a car bomb under the interchange and blow it up. Can’t be too careful you know.

  3. Ed Heinzelman says:

    That’s hilarious…considering they can simply park on any of the cross streets that go under the interchange!

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