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THE MILWAUKEE METHOD OF
CREATIVE PLACEMAKING
Greater Milwaukee Committee
Spring 2015
The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking
Introduction
The Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC) formed the Creative Placemaking Committee in fall
2014 to foster local support for creative placemaking and contribute to an emerging national
dialogue in the field. Creative placemaking is driven by The National Endowment for the Arts in
collaboration with national and local foundations looking for effective ways to create economic
prosperity and cultural vibrancy within communities. In alignment with these efforts, the GMC
and its partners are developing The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking, convening a
cultural leadership network, and facilitating creative placemaking projects in neighborhoods
across the city. This new initiative stems from a long history of the GMC’s investment in
Milwaukee as a vibrant place to live, learn, work, and play.
Defining The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking
The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking (The Milwaukee Method) embraces the following
national framework for creative placemaking:
• Unifies the arts and culture with economic and community development
• Accelerates neighborhood development by creating civic gathering places
• Increases density, safety, business creation, tax base, and property values
• Strengthens public and private alignments
• Supports artists, makers, and other cultural workers to co-lead neighborhood engagement
processes
The Milwaukee Method additionally includes these core values:
• Amplifies an authentic local voice with respect to the history and current culture
of neighborhoods, the city, and the region
• Extends the long-term commitment to neighborhoods
• Creates a platform for community discussion among neighbors that may feel separate due
to a host of cultural or economic conditions
• Cultivates an intergenerational network of cultural leaders versed in creative placemaking
who foster public dialogue around complex cultural subjects
• Advocates for a range of redevelopment opportunities at various scales
• Learns from historic investment in public spaces and architecture
• Repurposes buildings, materials, and human resources
• Links people to public space and to natural resources like freshwater lakes and rivers via
a city-wide trail network
• Attracts and retains talent through an interesting and vibrant city
• Ignites creative entrepreneurs and artists to grow businesses and develop markets
• Leverages the accessible scale of the city
• Grows existing tendencies for cross-sector alignment
• Focuses on evolving definitions of work and income-generation in response to an
industrial past
The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking
The Milwaukee Method focuses on culturally-sensitive neighborhood development based on the
interests of independent and institutional stakeholders. The method acknowledges that cultural
workers such as artists, makers, and creative entrepreneurs are critical to influencing
neighborhood development. These cultural workers are responsive to the regional landscape,
climate, and people to help value our history and explore new perspectives. The Milwaukee
Method emphasizes civic engagement to address concerns of displacement and disparity, as well
as the health of the community. The method suggests sustaining neighborhoods through talent
attraction and retention, business formation, job creation, and increased tax base and property
values. Creative placemaking projects based in The Milwaukee Method cultivate intergenerational
leadership and access to resources in order to grow local culture.
Investing in Public Space
Many creative placemaking projects nationally have an active public space at the core as a way
of exploring a civic commons. Creational Trails: The Avenue and The artery, a current creative
placemaking initiative of the GMC in collaboration with local partners, focuses on generating a
new experience of public space in Milwaukee. Creational Trails extends from Milwaukee’s long
history of investing in public space including community centers, parks, festivals, markets, and
other cultural initiatives. All these initiatives make our city feel alive as an enjoyable place to live
and work.
Frederick Olmsted's original design for Lake Park exemplifies Milwaukee's longstanding
commitment to public space. In recent decades, this park on Lake Michigan has extended into a
dedicated investment in a trail system. The Hank Aaron State Trail, Oak Leaf Trail, Beerline
Recreational Trail, and the RiverWalk are heavily used for recreation and commuting. All along
these trails, as well as in parks, one can find examples of art, community engagement, and
vibrancy. The Beerline Recreational Trail opened in 2010 now hosts the new Selig Joseph Folz
Theater, a swing park under the Marsupial Bridge, the Riverwest 24 Bike Race and a residentbuilt skating rink. New restaurants and residential housing have developed along the trails. The
three revitalized rivers of the city are links in this trail system. The Metropolitan Milwaukee
Sewage District and the 16th Street Community Health Center, among others, are undertaking
the Kinnickinnic River Corridor project, which aims to naturalize the river to connect
neighborhoods and improve public health. This green infrastructure of trails, parks, and treelined streets bring a heightened sense of access throughout the city.
Menomonee Valley with Three Bridges Park, just south of downtown, is a recent success of a new
public space investment in alignment with commercial redevelopment. This project's partners
include the City of Milwaukee, Urban Ecology Center and Menomonee Valley Partners, among
others. The redevelopment of the Menomonee Valley created a new sense of interconnectivity
between the south and north sides of the city. These are two areas that have historically
struggled with feelings of cultural separation. The Menomonee Valley’s strong identity is revived
with growing vibrancy. Simultaneously, the Valley functions as a bridge among adjacent
neighborhoods.
The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking
Repurposing an Industrial Powerhouse
Milwaukee’s public space investment has regularly occurred in tandem with commercial,
residential, and institutional development. Current redevelopment frequently repurposes
industrial buildings, neighborhoods, and land through public-private collaboration; examples
include the live-work campuses that have grown in corridors that once housed the automotive
industry, manufacturing plants, and breweries like Schlitz Park, The Brewery, and North End.
Buildings made of local Cream City brick are being rehabilitated alongside new construction and
pocket parks.
The opportunity of repurposing Milwaukee is underscored by national efforts like the Legacy City
Design Initiative (LCDI) of New York City and the Investing in Manufacturing Communities
Partnership (IMCP) of the United States Department of Commerce. The LCDI has identified
Milwaukee as a Legacy City. These industrial hubs have faced economic, social, and physical
challenges since the mid-twentieth century. Legacy Cities are well-positioned for regeneration
with the proper resources from both inside and outside local government. Under the IMCP
initiative, Milwaukee is one of 12 U.S. cities the federal government aims to retool for advanced
manufacturing by prioritizing their access to $1.3 billion in federal funds.
These national designations, in combination with the local redevelopment trends, growing publicprivate alignments, and the city’s scale, highlight the promising competitive advantage of
Milwaukee.
Valuing Neighborhoods
Milwaukee historically and currently values neighborhoods as a combination of commercial,
residential, and public spaces. This commitment to balanced neighborhood development often
involves artists, makers, and other creative workers. Examples include neighborhoods such as
Riverwest, Walker’s Point, Bay View, Sherman Park, and the Third Ward.
This valuing of neighborhoods is reaffirmed through investment from the City and local
foundations. The mayor’s ReFresh Milwaukee initiative seeks to make the city a center for
sustainability innovation and thought leadership. One program within ReFresh Milwaukee is
Home Gr/own, which encourages people to engage with healthy food production and distribution.
Home Gr/own produces new green community spaces from vacant lots and foreclosed homes. In
collaboration with the City, local foundations focus on neighborhood development through efforts
such as the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Healthy Neighborhood Initiative and the Zilber
Foundation’s Neighborhood Initiative.
The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking
The Greater Milwaukee Committee’s Leadership with Creative Placemaking
The GMC is nationally recognized as a Midwestern leader in creative placemaking. Two leading
national foundations for creative placemaking, ArtPlace America and The Kresge Foundation, are
focused on Milwaukee through the GMC’s current projects. These foundations have provided the
GMC with three grants totaling $1.6 million. This national investment was complemented by
local and federal funding currently estimated at $2 million. Via Artplace America, the GMC
contributed an essay to the upcoming Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's Community
Development Journal issue focusing on creative placemaking. Additionally, the GMC is exploring
the connection between independent workers and creative placemaking initiatives, partly through
funding from the Knight Foundation.
Ellen Gilligan, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and Barry Mandel,
president of Mandel Group Inc., co-chair the GMC’s Creative Placemaking Committee.
Consultant Sara Daleiden of MKE<->LAX will facilitate this committee in collaboration with GMC
leadership. The committee will reflect different sectors within the GMC membership as well as
external community partners connected to creative placemaking.
For 2015-2016, the Creative Placemaking Committee’s commitment includes facilitating a
curated network of cultural leaders and three creative placemaking projects. The committee will
also further define and distribute The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking. The GMC will
commit financial resources to support the infrastructure and consultant fees, manage the
national grant funding, and raise local funds. The GMC will initiate strategic actioning sessions
with local stakeholders to stimulate linkages across sectors and generate a collaborative vision for
a project area. The GMC will collaborate on production of programs and initiatives related to the
committee’s commitment.
Cultural Leadership Network
The Cultural Leadership Network is the backbone of efforts emerging from The Milwaukee
Method of Creative Placemaking. This intergenerational network of local talent will represent a
range of Milwaukee’s cultural groups. An initial core group of leaders will be selected for their
facilitation skills, focus on equity and commitment to developing Milwaukee as a city with many
active cultures. The network encourages interconnectivity across the city with “trails” as a
unifying concept for a new sense of access. The cultural leaders will practice the development of
trust, resource-sharing, and dialogue around complex cultural subjects with each other. Network
participants will address the experience that neighbors can feel culturally separate, frequently
based on perceived differences in race, gender, class, and other cultural characteristics. This
relationship-building practice of the network will then be spread across sectors and
neighborhoods as cultural leaders advise on the development of creative placemaking projects
and related initiatives.
The Cultural Leadership Network will create a feedback loop with neighborhood leadership to
discover opportunities and alleviate distrust as creative placemaking initiatives are undertaken.
The network’s involvement will bring transparency to economic, community, and real estate
development efforts as institutional and independent relationships are forged. A networked and
aligned group of leaders will bring more efficiency and innovation to initiatives. This level of
collaboration will set a new standard for inclusive development of the city.
The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking
Network Production Areas
• Develop metrics for neighborhood development to document impact on safe conditions,
business creation, and neighbor engagement
• Support local independent workers in the arts and other entrepreneurial areas to connect
with the economic and community development sectors
• Facilitate creative placemaking production and advocacy with local agencies
• Identify potential creative placemaking projects regionally for future investment
• Activate a mentorship program to encourage connections among emerging and
established leaders, as well as peer-to-peer learning
• Organize discovery trips to other American cities which revitalize industrial corridors and
correlate different cultural groups within neighborhoods
• Produce educational programs such as the April 2014 Creative Placemaking Forum with
local and national case studies
• Generate an active online platform for sharing references, asset maps, and program
materials
Creative Placemaking Projects: The Avenue, the artery, and Walker’s Point
The GMC is practicing The Milwaukee Method by focusing on three long-term projects in 201516, as well as exploring other potential creative placemaking projects for future investment. The
three projects include Creational Trails, both the Avenue and the artery, and Walker’s Point.
These projects are located in the North Side, Downtown, and the South Side to represent a crosssection of the City of Milwaukee. These areas are receptive to redevelopment and contain areas
of disinvestment. The GMC seeks to work in neighborhoods where a strong community
development corporation (CDC) is present or in formation. CDCs and other anchor institutions are
important neighborhood partners for long-term investment in collaboration with other public and
private agencies.
The first grant from ArtPlace America supported the initiation of the Innovation in Milwaukee
(MiKE) initiative within the GMC, located in The Shops of Grand Avenue in an effort to revive the
mall as a place for creative businesses like NEWaukee. The second grant from ArtPlace America
supported the first phase of Creational Trails: the Avenue and the artery realized in 2013-2014
with NEWaukee, beintween and MKE<->LAX. The third grant from the Kresge Foundation will
support the second phase of Creational Trails: the artery in Riverworks and the development of
the Cultural Leadership Network in 2015-2016.
As an extension of the many recreational trails in the region, Creational Trails seeks to bridge
neighborhoods that can feel culturally separated. Creational Trails identified the importance of
tapping into existing local networks of artists, makers, and other creative entrepreneurs. These
networks were pooled to generate safe, active, and inviting places where a range of
intergenerational cultural groups could intersect. This is a significant accomplishment for public
space in Milwaukee where many cultural groups feel apprehensive to cluster with each other. The
GMC’s project partners, including the City, development corporations, local businesses,
foundations, and community organizations, were key drivers in the process. Through the
implementation of arts-based programs and installations, Creational Trails suggests new public
spaces as a way to redevelop underutilized areas and create a new rhythm for each
neighborhood.
The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking
Led by NEWaukee, Creational Trails: the Avenue is located on West Wisconsin Avenue and is
supported by the GMC, the Wisconsin Avenue Milwaukee Development Corporation (WAM-DC),
and the City of Milwaukee. The Avenue explores walkability and interaction with a broad range of
cultures on downtown’s main street through animating a vacant lot and streetscape. Activities
include the new Night Markets and art installations. This work is an important building block in
the revitalization of West Wisconsin Avenue and The Shops of Grand Avenue in connection with
Creative Alliance Milwaukee’s 4MKE initiative. Additionally, NEWaukee is an example of a local
creative placemaking agency that has received GMC investment for several years for their focus
on millennials and talent development. NEWaukee is currently working on The Avenue and the
artery as well as a new project on Cesar Chavez Drive.
Creational Trails: the artery at the Beerline Recreational Trail Extension is located in the
Riverworks area. Riverworks is comprised of Harambee and Riverwest, two neighborhoods which
have a history of dedicated community-driven initiatives. Harambee is predominantly AfricanAmerican and Riverwest is one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in the city, partly
due to proximity to the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. The initiative is supported by the
GMC, the Riverworks Development Corporation (RDC), the Harambee Great Neighborhood
Initiative, and the City of Milwaukee. Founded by beintween, the artery repurposes a former
railroad corridor into a linear park focused on the arts. The artery programming supports
experimentation and training in performance and design-build projects through ICAN2 Labs.
Future work with this initiative includes continued activation of the trail and expanding
Riverworks as a live-work hub for artists, makers, community organizers, and other cultural
leaders. The project will seek opportunities to create and grow creative entrepreneurial ventures
in Riverworks.
The newest project relates to the GMC’s headquarters at the Global Water Center in Walker’s
Point. Walker’s Point is rich with long-standing Latino, LGBTQ, and other arts and cultural
groups. The project intends to respect the GMC’s neighbors and the entrepreneurial business
community’s growing food, design, and technology clusters. The GMC is partnering with the
Walker’s Point Association, Mandel Group Inc., and the City of Milwaukee. The partnership seeks
to develop creative placemaking collaborations with the Global Water Center, the Corredor
Creativo, the Innovation District Initiative, The Inner Harbor District Initiative, Reed Street Yards,
and other public and private efforts. This project will also engage with The Commons, a
collaboration between leading local universities and businesses founded by MiKE and Startup
Milwaukee.
Distributing The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking
With all of these efforts, the GMC with the Cultural Leadership Network and other partners will
define and distribute The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking for contribution to the field
of creative placemaking occurring regionally and nationally. The Milwaukee Method supports
interweaving cultural and economic diversity as a method of sustainable city development for
long-term success of investments. This commitment to a trail system, repurposed industrial
space, and neighborhoods fosters ongoing and new alignments.
The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking
Acknowledgments
This document was written by Julia Taylor of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Sara Daleiden of
MKE<->LAX, and Tim Syth of LushProduction. This articulation of The Milwaukee Method of
Creative Placemaking emerges after intensive, collaborative exploration with Creational Trails,
Bucketworks, Milwaukee Artist Resource Network, America’s Black Holocaust Museum, and the
Innovation District Initiative in 2013-14, as well as ongoing dialogue with cultural leaders.
Some of the cultural leaders who generously contributed include Ian Abston, Sharon Adams,
Victor Albarracin, Griselda Aldrete, Mark Allen, Joaquin Altoro, Alex Amerri, Pamela Anderson,
Edgar Arceneaux, John Arroyo, SA Bachman, Raul Paulino Baltazar, Tom Bamberger, Anne
Basting, Reginald Baylor, Jack Becker, Allison Danielle Behrstock, Lili Bernard, Omar Blaik,
Olivia Booth, Andrea Bowers, Anne Bray, Laura Bray, Debra Brehmer, Fonde Bridges, Todd
Broadie, Amanda Bromberg Berman, Henriette Brouwers, Maggie Bryde, Brent Budsberg, Alice
Carle, Sara Caron, Adam Carr, James Carlson of School Factory, Pegi Christiansen of IN:SITE,
Ashley Coffey, Carol Coletta, Katia Cooper, Kim Cosier, Lyz Crane, James Dallman, Angela
Damiani of NEWaukee, Michael Davidson, Raoul Deal, Rita DeMerit, Stephanie Diamond,
Michael Drescher, Kimberly Driggins, Melissa Dorn Richards, Paul Druecke, Dana Duff, Tyrone
Dumas, Yaajoy Engel, Mark Escribano, Regan Farquhar, Leah Fiasca, Brad Fiore, Regina
Flanagan, Michael Fleming, Chloe Flores, Anwar Floyd-Pruitt, Mikal Floyd-Pruitt, Jeremy Fojut of
NEWaukee, Nicholas Frank, Daniel French, Neil Gasparka, Theaster Gates, Ellen Gilligan, James
Godsil, Karen Goeschko, Melissa Goins, Chris Grandt, Thurman Grant, Richard Greene, Shelleen
Greene, Stephanie Hacker, Fritz Haeg, Lane Hall, Erin Harkey, Reuben Harpole, Christine Harris,
Keith Hayes of beintween, Channing Henry, Cynthia Henry, Reynaldo Hernandez, Darren Hill,
Vedale Hill, Khine Hline, Neil Hoffman, Nicholas Holbus, Michael Hostad, Maggie Jacobus of
Creative Alliance Milwaukee, Ellie Jackson, Reggie Jackson, Ashley Janke, Darryl Johnson, Helen
Johnson, Tracee Johnson, Jennifer Johung, Fran Kaplan, Gulgun Kayim, Dasha Kelly, Bill Kelley
Jr., Patti Kim, Paul Kjelland, Julilly Kohler, Ben Koller, Bettina Korek, Jenna Knapp, Ghassan
Korban, Marilu Knode, Sara Krajewski of INOVA, Bill Johnson, Mutope Johnson, Grace La,
Suzanne Lacy, Tracey Lapointe, Mark Lawson, Ken Leinbach, Brad Lichtenstein, Katie
Loughmiller, Sandra de la Loza, Rick Lowe, Lynn Lucius, Sarah Luther, Kristi Luzar, John
Malpede, Barry Mandel, Amy Mangrich, Rocky Marcoux, Shana McCaw, Christopher McIntyre,
Kimberli Meyer, Jennifer Geigel Mikulay, Ron Milam, Monica Miller, Bob Monnat, Tarik Moody,
Claudia Mooney, Jill Morin, Polly Morris, Melissa Musante, Mary Louise Mussoline, Tim Murphy,
James Murrell, Yvette Murrell, Jeanne Olivieri, John O’Neill, Donna Neuwirth, Anna-Marie
Opgenorth, Harvey Opgenorth, Josie Osborne, Laurel Osman, Leif Otteson, Janet Owen Driggs,
Zulay Febres Cordero Ozskay, Carl Nilssen, John Norquist, Michael Parker, Annushka Peck,
Alexis Peterson, Linda Pollack, Nancy Popp, Brad Pruitt, Isaiah Rembert, Tia Richardson, John
Riepenhoff, Brian Reilly, David Robbins, James Rojas, Trinidad Ruiz, Christina Sanchez, Maggie
Sasso, Abigail Satinsky, Catherine “Scoti” Scott, Marsha Sehler, Arijit Sen, Sarah Schultz, Mary
Louise Schumacher, Jill Sebastian, Will Sheffie, Rory Sloan, David Sloane, Brian Solomon,
Christopher Sperandio, Gregory Stanford, Joshua G. Stein, J. Allen Stokes, Lisa Sutcliffe, Andrew
Swant, Theresa Sweetland, Oliver Sydello, WC Tank, Evelyn Patricia Terry, George Tzougros,
Ursula Twombley, Raul Vasquez, Pedro Velez, Eddie Villanueva, Della Wells, Alida Carlos Whaley,
Hilary Wilson, Katherine Wilson, Sally Witte, Erika Wolf, Karin Wolf, lauren woods, Sara Wookey,
and Susan Bell Yank.
The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking

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