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Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Editorial: Vince Bushell, Publisher

There are several issues involving the proposed development at North Avenue and the Milwaukee River.

Concerns expressed include issues related to: the environment, development, student behavior and parking.

I will comment on the environmental issue. The land swap is a win for the environment. Any attempt to describe it any other way is pure fantasy. Starting from the west in describing the parcels to be developed: the Ward Yard is a concrete graffiti lined eyesore. It has little to no environmental value in its present form. It is owned by the City of Milwaukee. City officials have always wanted to develop this parcel.

The section of rail corridor that hugs the Ward Yard is owned by Readco, the developer proposing the students housing and condo development .This land as well as the triangle of land below the rail corridor are not in the environmental corridor. The land that Readco is willing to swap for the triangle section is in the environmental corridor. Readco also owns the Sign Effects building and will include it in their development proposal for the entire site. They do not have definitive plans for anything but the UWM housing.

The swap land to be given to the County has tested clean whereas the triangle is polluted. The swap increases the area of the environmental corridor that will be protected. It provides a passage for a trail that does not cause damage to the corridor by removing trees from steep slopes.

Native trees are being planted in the corridor by volunteers(many of them students by the way). This summer there will be a crew of 10 to 12 paid youth doing restoration along the river under the direction of the River Revitalization Foundation. You can come visit anytime and I will be glad to show you the results of our work.

I have been leading hikes for several years and explaining the pros and cons and difficulties in preserving as much as possible of this river corridor. I think we as a neighoborhood working with groups like the River Revitalization Foundation have done that.

I’ll leave the student bashing issue except for one point: If you substitute “Black” for “Student” in some of the commentary I have been hearing, you may detect a mean-spirited tone that is prejudiced against a class of people. This attitude has no place in a neighborhood that wishes to claim Diversity is its Strength. Not all students are bad, and they are obviously not the cause of all our civic problems. I am not saying the student housing is the ideal or only possible use for this land but it is what is being proposed. If you are concerned tell your elected representatives. But it is a lie to say that allowing this plan to go forward will damage the environment. In fact it will save prime land.

It is my pleasure to bring issues such as this out in the open for discussion. The river valley and development has been and will continue to be a key issue for the Currents. Neighborhoods are always changing. Frank Zeidler taught me that.

Riverwest Currents online edition – April, 2006