Urban centers are reliant of proper and insight planning and renewal policies in order to cope with increased social-economic demands from their populace. Milwaukee’s Washington Park and Riverwest neighborhoods contrast in some neighborhoods indictors such as housing, population, demographics, social life and economic status. While Riverwest neighborhood is lowly populated at 11, 653 residents most of whom are Caucasians, Washington Park has a small population of 1,184 dominated by African Americans. Economically the two neighborhoods have a significant difference with Washington Park boasting an average median household income of $23,327 while Riverwest households average at $30, 436. These among other indicators point to a higher quality of life in Riverwest as compared to the Washington Park. The differences noted between these two neighborhoods can be attributed to gentrification or the influx of rich persons to urban neighborhoods thereby changing the socio-economic structure. While gentrification seems to have worked in favor of Riverwest, it had adverse effects on Washington Park. The urban renewal policies of Milwaukee can be compared to those of Australia’s Perth City whose population is distributed across its neighborhoods in a similar manner as Milwaukee.
Since ancient times, cities have acted as the drivers of economies. Over time, cities have undergone tremendous transformation in terms of settlement patterns, expansion of infrastructure among other issues that greatly affect the millions of people residing in the city neighborhoods. One such city that has undergone immense transformation is Milwaukee in Wisconsin, United States. Milwaukee is the largest city in the state of Wisconsin. Historically the city is famous for its strong brewing culture. The city if fairly populous with the larger Milwaukee area (Milwaukee-West Allis and Waukesha area) having a population of 1.56 million people as of 2012 (areavibes.com, 2013). This paper discusses what neighborhood indicators are, presents an analysis of the neighborhood indicators for two Milwaukee neighborhoods (Washington Park and Riverwest), and discusses gentrification in light of Milwaukee City and presents several trends, goals and economic strategies about the city in comparison to Los Angeles.
These are the small bits of information about a place that reflect the status of a larger area. Neighborhood indicators include general demographics (population, population density, age distribution and racial composition), housing statistics, economic (median household income, unemployment rate etc), community involvement (voting patterns, community organizations), public safety (crime rates, public policing issues etc), mobility and accessibility of services (transport systems) and the general environment.
The Milwaukee neighborhood is the main economic and cultural center in the State of Wisconsin. Most of the people in Milwaukee describe their neighborhoods according to ZIP codes and ethnic groupings. Today there are 9 neighborhoods in Milwaukee; Upper East Side, Lower East side, Bay View, Juneau Town, Riverwest, Brewers Hill, Cedarburg, Bayside and Washington Park. Milwaukee is a very diverse city with each neighborhood having its unique atmosphere in several neighborhood indicators.
Riverwest borders the Milwaukee River on the East and North, capital drive on the South and Holton Street on the West. Washington Park is so named because it is resident to the famous 124-acre Washington Park. The neighborhood borders Martin Drive to the South, Walnut Hill to the East, Metcalfe Park to the North and Washington Heights to the West.
The neighborhood of Washington Park has a population of 1,184 with a relatively youthful population whose median age is 25 years. The average number of people per household is 3.7 which is above the average for the area at 3. 22.1% of Washington Park residents own their homes while 77.9% live in rented apartments (areavibes.com, 2013). For many years since it was founded, Washington Park was predominantly white but over the last couple of decades whites have fled the suburb due to the expansion of the inner Milwaukee city. Today the Washington Park neighborhood comprises majorly of African American (83.49%), Caucasians (7.26%) Asians (4.36%) and Latino. 91% of the residents speak English while 4% speak Spanish (areavibes.com, 2013).
Riverwest contrasts Washington Park in several aspects. Unlike Washington Park, Riverwest is more populated at 11,653 people whose median age is 32. It is also predominantly a white suburb with Caucasians forming 58.98% of its population, 26.10% African American, 5.64% mixed race, 1.12% Hispanics and 0.96% Asian and 7.19% other races (areavibes.com, 2013).
Economically the two neighborhoods have a significant difference with Washington Park boasting an average median household income of $23,327 while Riverwest households average at $30, 436. 83% of the people in Riverwest earn their income from salaried employment while about 76% of the people in Washington Park do so. In terms of income distribution, 30% of the people in Washington Park earn less than $10,000 while only 15% of Riverwest’s residents earn that amount of money (areavibes.com, 2013).
The average home price in Riverwest is $178, 500 while a home in Washington Park goes for $124,000. The housing prices in Washington Park could come down significantly due to the increment in the number of new homes being set up in the area (areavibes.com, 2013). The Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity has plans to invest $20 million in setting up 150 homes in the area and this could significantly ease housing problems in the area. Homes in Washington Park are an interesting mix of old and modern styles. There are several grand brick homes and cottages as well as simple frame homes. Washington Park has an average of 3.7 people per household while Riverwest has an average of 2.2 people. Milwaukee country has an average of 2.5 people per household while the larger Wisconsin state has an average of 2 people per household. 36.1% of Riverwest residents live in their own houses while 63.9% live in rented apartments. In Washington Park, 22.1% of the residents live in their own houses while 77.9% of live in rented apartments. These statistics can be compared against Milwaukee’s average at 47.4% for home owners and 52.6% live in rented apartments (areavibes.com, 2013).
Health and safety
Riverwest has a police offer to civilian ratio of 4.5 officers for every 1000 people. The neighborhood has 260 churches and 17 hospitals. Washington Park has a higher crime rates recording 1,520 violent crime rates while Riverwest had 1120 violent crime incidents
Social status and Environment
The Riverwest community is an artistic one. It is close to the East side and the University Of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Campus. The Riverwest neighborhood has very many young people, comprising of student families, and single students who find the rent rates convenient. There are several neighborhood associations to boost the security and the social well being of the residents.
There has been extensive urban renewal in Milwaukee. The urban renewal policies have affected its social, cultural and economic aspects. The most affected were areas such as Bronzeville community which was previously populated by African-Americans and neighborhoods. There were also several other religious belief and ethnicities. Following a several development projects and expansion programs, the residents were dispersed. Washington Park is a major focus of environmental sustainability efforts. In 2007, the Milwaukee Urban Ecology Center opened a branch in the neighborhood in order to maintain the historic green space. Residents and businesspeople have formed the Washington Park Partners which spearheads the community based activities to ensure that the community remains healthy, thriving and vibrant (uwm.edu, 2013).
In terms of security the neighborhood has a crime index of 52% which is higher than that of the larger Milwaukee area. The number of violent crimes reported in the area is also 52% higher than that of the Milwaukee area. However, the Washington Park neighborhood is safer than 5% of other Milwaukee neighborhoods.
Urban Renewal in Milwaukee
The county of Milwaukee had a population of 947,000 people as of 2010. The Milwaukee metropolitan area has a population of 1.7 million people. The median value of owner-occupied housing units is $80,000 going by statistics from 2000. 54.7% of the population is renters while the rest own their own homes. The median household income early as of the year 2008 was $45,000. The median age of Milwaukee County is 33 years and the average household size is 2.5 (areavibes.com, 2013).
Gentrification is a general term that means the arrival of wealthier people in an already existing urban district. It can also refer to an increase in property values and rent rates, as well as changes in the culture and characters of a city or urban dwelling (uwm.edu, 2013). It is often used negatively giving a connotation of displacement of poor communities by rich outsiders.
Some of the positive effects of gentrification are reduction in the crime rates due to increased demand for community policing and the installation of better security systems by wealthy individuals. New investments in infrastructure and buildings also increase the economic activity in a place and stimulate growth. However, these new economic developments can also marginalize the minority residents socially and economically. In the US gentrification has often been viewed as a form of social injustice where the rich incoming investors are often rewarded for “improving” the lives of the previous inhabitants. The minority who are relatively poor and usually displaced by the rise in cost of living in those neighborhoods and skyrocketing rents.
Milwaukee is one of the cities that have experienced gentrification. The larger part of Milwaukee’s neighborhood has been constantly changing over time and it is not uncommon to find some old stately mansion being currently used as a flat for college students! The expansion of the Milwaukee city has pushed some of the inhabitants of neighborhoods such as Washington Park have been pushed out of their former homes by outwards expansion of the city. Washington Park was previously occupied by middle-income Caucasians but the expansion of the city has compelled many incoming investors.
The following changes characterize gentrification. I terms of demographics it is marked by reduction in household sizes, low-income families and the rise of young singles and couples. In terms of the Real Estate markets gentrification is marked by increments in rents and home prices, evictions, development of luxury housing and conversion of rental units to ownership (Condos). In light of land use, gentrification is usually marked by decline in industrial use and increased development of restaurants, retail outlets, medical facilities, entertainment areas and other social places. The cultural aspects of the city are also affected by the influx of different communities into the area. Gentrification brings about new ideas about what is deemed attractive and desirable including the standards (legal or informal) for the architecture, public behavior, landscaping, nuisance and noise in the neighborhood.
The neighborhoods of Riverwest were founded by wealthy German families in the 1850s who found the banks of the Milwaukee River a perfect place to set up summer homes. Along the Humboldt Boulevard stand very exquisite Victorian homes that were put up by the Germans. Early 19th century Polish settlers moved into the areas surrounding the German establishments and into establishments themselves. They set up some houses right outside where the German establishments were. It s not uncommon to find a two houses squeezed into one compound for instance a duplex in front of a cottage. Some of the areas with such housing include Polish Falcon hall and St. Mary of Czestochowa.
Non-profit organizations have been instrumental in the growth of cities around the world. The Nonprofit Center in Milwaukee is the largest association of nonprofit organizations in the area. The association brings together 400 member organizations. The center provides member with technical assistance, organizing training, consultations, workshops, research support, mapping for neighborhoods, conference planning, information and referrals about other programs.
Evaluate Current Urban Renewal Policy
In the early days it was easy to classify the people of Milwaukee based on their residential neighborhoods. Back then, the Milwaukee River easily divided the city into two halves with the Easterners having strong enmity with their counterparts in the West. However, development of infrastructure and change in settlement patterns has altered the previous systems leading to highly cohesive neighborhoods. The current urban renewal policy addresses several issues such as environmental sustainability of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods, as well as the city. The policy also addresses the provision and sustainability of social amenities such as schools, hospitals, public parks among others. It is worth noting that the county government of Milwaukee is tasked with the responsibility of sustainable urban renewal policies. In addition to improving the quality of its current population, urban renewal policies also address trade and business issues in order to attract investors into the area who among other things help to ease the problem of unemployment in the area (uwm.edu, 2013). This is a crucial aspect of the planning since more than 60% of Milwaukee’s population comprises of youths graduating from the many educational institutions within Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin.
The current renewal plans of Milwaukee can be compared to those of Perth in Australia. Perth is the largest city and the capital city Western Australia state. The city and its environs host a population of 1.9 million people. Perth’s metropolitan area is developed from four corridors that radiate from the city centre. Perth’s neighborhoods are usually characterized by increased agitations for the sufficient representation of the ancient Aboriginal people. The city’s Northbridge neighborhoods are comparable to Milwaukee’s Riverwest with a large population of rich individuals and high income levels. The area is also marked by high house prices. Unlike Riverwest, Northbridge has vibrant social life to cater for the large population of youths in the area. The policy makers have prioritized to take advantage of Perth’s closeness to the sea to come up with exquisite tourist attraction sites and features, moreover the city’s planners have increased community policing and security measures to ensure that insecurity scares away neither investors nor tourists.
It is apparent that city planning including urban renewal policies are crucial in establishing strong and vibrant urban communities. Milwaukee states with its nine large neighborhoods attests to the importance of quality urban planning. This research brings to the fore striking differences between two of Milwaukee’s major neighborhoods (Washington Park and Riverwest). The kind of indicators evaluated also gives a significant view of the city’s socioeconomic differences. The changing socio-economic demands should compel urban planners to regularly review their plans for renewing some aspects in the city in order to accommodate upcoming changes. For instance the increment in the number of students residing near educational cities such as Milwaukee should compel increased economic activities in order to curb high rates of unemployment. In this regard, the government should give incentives and provide the necessary legal framework for urban areas to grow and meet the needs of their people.
Milwaukee Community Indicators: Employment &Training Institute. (n.d.).Milwaukee Community Indicators: Employment &Training Institute. Retrieved November 18, 2013, from http://www4.uwm.edu/eti/reports/indypage
Best places to live. Retrieved 18 Nov. 2012 from http://www.areavibes.com/milwaukee-wi/