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“H” Streets

by Vince Bushell

The City of Milwaukee now lists the selling prices of homes on its web site – www.ci.mil.wi.us/citygov/assessor/assessor.htm. The listings are by Aldermanic District and include the property addresses. Besides the address, the city’s listing tracks the general style of the home, the number of units, square footage, when it was built, siding material, number of stories, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, selling price (not an appraised value or tax assessment), and date sold. Commercial buildings, mixed use buildings, or housing that has more than three units (apartment buildings) are not on this list. Currently the listings include prices from 1995 through 2002. Of course, listings for 2003 are incomplete. With a little work, this information is a tool to look at what is happening to housing prices in Riverwest and surrounding areas and develop some theories on why. The north south streets that form a ladder-like grid for Riverwest are the two “H” streets: Humboldt Boulevard and Holton Street. The six blocks between these two streets exhibit a considerable variance in housing prices. There is, on average, a $10,000 to $20,000 greater price paid for homes on the east versus the west parts of the neighborhood. Looking at Holton Street versus Humboldt Boulevard, the extremes of this price variation can be seen. In 1995 the average selling price for a home on Holton Street was $29,200, while the average price on Humboldt was $61,300. In 2002 the average selling price on Holton was $67,700 while on Humboldt it was $126,100. Although the trend in values is up, there does not seem to be much closing of the gap. The number of homes sold in a year makes this a small sample, but the trends and differences in values between the two streets runs constant over the eight-year period, as is exhibited in the accompanying graph. The physical environment of the two streets is markedly different. Although both are busy streets, Humboldt has a boulevard with many trees in the center as well as next to the sidewalk, while Holton has no trees. The Holton Street revitalization plan being worked on by the city and the YMCA CDC should take a close look at this green, attractiveness factor when trying to make Holton more valuable to Riverwest and Holton Street’s homeowners and businesses. University of Illinois studies have shown that trees make neighborhoods healthier, both physically and psychologically. Residents and shop owners on Holton Street should also take a close look at East North Avenue and the East Side Bid. There was a determined effort to slow traffic speed on East North Avenue by adding a bike lane and narrowing the crosswalk areas. These are proven methods of making a busy street more pedestrian-friendly and more business-friendly. It is not too hard to imagine intersections, like Center Street and Holton Street, becoming thriving retail centers, as they once were not long ago. The City’s Integrated Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy and the possible Main Street program could help Holton Street, especially major intersections, come back to life. However, it will not happen without some resident and business leaders on Holton Street coming forward to carry the message to City Hall as to what is desired. Leaving things as they are does not bode well for the future of this street. The housing stock on Humboldt Boulevard is of higher quality, but $60,000 better? Lowering crime, improving the streetscape, revitalizing retail, implementing design that encourages bicycles and pedestrians, all these things would help Holton Street. It is only a stone’s throw from Brady Street and touches Capitol Drive and a revitalized Center Street. These adjacent areas have shown much improvement over the last ten years. Each has its own identity. Holton Street needs to find its niche. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 7 – July 2003
by Vince Bushell