The regentrification of Milwaukee

1) This is not the type of post that wins friends, but I do think the phenomenon is worthy of discussion. I feel it is a component of what happened at Mayfair Mall a couple of weeks ago.

2) I thought about just using the word gentrification but instead chose regentrification to affirm the fact that Milwaukee had a hayday once, and is again building to that goal.

Now, as I said above, and alluded in a previous post, I think some of the demographic changes being felt at Mayfair Mall have to do with Milwaukee rebuilding the core of the city. This report by the Public Policy Forum shows the city’s property value growth in the first half of the decade. Granted the recent slump has slowed everything, but I doubt it’s undone the trend. The City of Milwaukee is making a comeback.

No doubt, good chunks of that can be attributed to the high-rise developments of Kilbourn Tower and University Club Tower. Did you realize there’s a $2 million penthouse still available? A lot of both development sold before the downturn. When you are moving million dollar households into the city, the $50,000 households are heading someplace else.

There’s a website called Milwaukee Drum that did a lot of work on race segregation last year. The content is difficult to read because of the background, but from what I can tell, it’s good stuff. The 2000 census numbers are used. I’m very hopeful they will work with the 2010 numbers soon. In particular, I’m interested in how this map has changed over the last decade. I am no expert, but my gut says the blue will move away from the lake and towards the west. Of course, in a perfect world, the blue and the red would be so mixed we couldn’t differentiate, but we’re not living in a perfect world.

Anecdotally, those familiar with Wauwatosa will say the same. An acquaintance explained the other day the old dividing line was about Washington Park, or Sherman Avenue. The new one is around 75th – Wauwatosa Avenue. There’s a lot a westward movement of the troubled areas, and you can’t blame me for recognizing the troubled areas overlap those housing more blacks.

Do not blame me for calling it a dividing line. You know it’s there. Do not label me racist for forcing this recognition. I didn’t make it happen.

Which gets me to the bottom line: how do you make people care? There shouldn’t be a dividing line at all. Every member of our society should care about educating their children well and knowing where they are during the day. But they don’t.

That’s the core of the problem.

Racial barriers will exist until individual values coalesce. As long as I’m hounding my kids to get their homework done and someone else is not, we’re going to have differences. As long as I expect my children to treat others with respect and another mother does not care, we’re going to butt heads.

Right now it looks like that wrestling match is located at Mayfair Mall. In two weeks, what I have not heard, is what anyone plans to do about it. A few more hours of youth restricted attendance does nothing to solve the problem. Two decades ago a guy named Rodney King asked, “Can we get along?” Twenty years later it looks like the answer is still no.

Before a few of you go off on how miserable those poor kids are, let me remind you they were a lot less miserable than you’d like to think. Wrapped in gold chains and designer clothes with cell phones and texting plans, I label them the idle rich. Before you start into the standard defense, ask yourself how well you believe it. Money won’t solve this. I challenge you to find a new answer. I really want to know if anything can be done.


  1. I agree it will be interesting to see the map based on the 2010 census. I am not so sure the blue dots will increase much to the straight west. The trend has been more northwest. I would expect that trend to continue along with an increase to the south.
    If one looks at the differences between the 1990 and 2000 census, the movement of black dominant and high black dominant census tracts was toward Brown Deer and the northwest corner of Milwaukee county. There was little or no movement toward Wauwatosa or West Allis.

  2. i do agree and have written so that the milwaukee business interests are making an effort to entice business back from the outskirts of the city. developers have a ton of money invested in milw lands. thats their problem. i grew up in the city at 20th and W. State St. and enjoyed going downtown which even then had undesirable places, i.e., the princess theatre and hotel next door, the belmont hotel and the wells st. mansions (ha) which a young boy should not be found. now law enforcement is sparse while the entertainment is pricey.

  3. John Foust says:

    Standard defense? Is that the one where I suggest that your impression of idle gold-chained cell-phone owning black youth hanging out at the mall isn’t quite a statistically valid sample that could lead to greater understanding of whether there are actually any not-rich mothers who live in THAT neighborhood who do hound their kids to do their homework?

  4. I thought of making a couple of replies, then I realized your comment didn’t make any sense to me, John. My impression of gold-chained cell-phone owning black youth hanging out at the mall as the idle rich isn’t correct? I claimed there were no not-rich mothers who live in THAT neighborhood who didn’t hound their children to do homework?

    I won’t reply until you make a statement meant to encourage discussion instead of argue.

  5. John Foust says:

    I didn’t think my two sentences were that difficult to understand. Does your eye pass over the bejeweled, expensive-clothes-wearing white kids at the mall and not label them as idle and spoiled? Who is “they”?

  6. They would be a pronoun referring to the more specific noun or noun phrase used in a sentence or paragraph. You’d have to provide the instance of use so that I might better direct you. I could find a way to diagram the sentence if you need it.

    Good grief, many, and it seems liberals in particular, have such trouble with the pronoun they. It was something I had finished with learning about the 8th grade. The word itself was mastered about the age of 4.

    PS Your comment about white kids was very racist.

  7. The Lorax says:

    I think calling them rich is just a little too much. In your dreams – and theirs!

  8. Idle rich is different than rich. Idle rich is a phrase describing those with a lot of free time because one’s needs are met.

  9. The Lorax says:

    Is this something you’ve found in literature about this topic, or did you make it up yourself? I think it’s a bit misleading.

  10. What this are you talking about?