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Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Southside Development Plan In Use Against Minority Business
District Bids were left out of advisory plan
By H. Nelson Goodson
April 1, 2009
Milwaukee -Members of various Business Improvement Districts also known as District Bids say they were not notified or asked to participate on what has become the spread of gentrification in the South side. A member of the Cesar E. Chavez Drive Bid said that the city was working on expanding the street on Chavez Drive and would add new lights, but isn’t sure when the project will start.
The Chavez BID member claims that other members did not know that the $150,000 Near South Side Area Advisory Plan by the Milwaukee Department of City Development (DCD) was being planned by other groups and businesses; which most of their representatives don’t reside in the area.
Last weekend, Hispanic business owners and residents met to discuss the advisory plan proposed by the Milwaukee Department of City Development. They determined that gentrification had begun in W. Seeboth, W. Oregon, W. Pittsburgh, W. Florida and from S. 1st St. to the W. Lincoln Ave. area where commercial and residential lofts are flourishing. The trendy restaurants, nightclub scene, and commercial development area is now called the 5th Ward by Developer Tim Dertz and the city. To residents in the South side, the area is called “Yuppie-ville.” The term yuppie (short for "young urban professional" or "young upwardly-mobile professional") refers to an 1980s and early 1990s term for financially secure, upper-middle class young people in their 20s and early 30s. This ward seems to have separated from Walker’s Point and the rest of the South side. The proposed advisory development plan will lead to racial and economic disparity in the South side, according to the Hispanic group.
In mid December during a public hearing in the City Licensing Committee, Alderman Tony Zielinski used the Southeast Side Comprehensive Area Development Plan adopted by the Common Council to influence the denial of granting a Class “A” Malt license to AK Food Mart on S. Howell and W. Lincoln Ave., according to business owner and community activist Dagoberto Ibarra.
Michael J. Maierle, Urban Planner for the DCD said, “the corner streets of S. Kinnickinnic, W. Lincoln, and S. Howell Ave. are a key focal point for Bay View ongoing redevelopment and retail effort, and plans recommend improving this intersection with public and private investment. None of these community redevelopment strategies is furthered by granting a malt alcoholic beverage to a second store in such close proximity to another. Granting a license wouldn’t improve the goal of the plan.”
Ibarra says the issue was “racial” and Ald. Zielinski used a development plan approved by the Common Council, which is actually similar to what has been proposed as an advisory plan for the South side. The Near South Side Area Advisory Plan could be used as a tool to deny and deprive other small businesses licenses.
The Southeast Side Comprehensive Area Plan was a key factor to deny a beer license to AK Food Mart business owner Parshotam Singh, according to Ibarra. Trendy business owners including Lulu’s Cafe, and other real estate owners have invested millions of dollars on S. Kinnickinnic and W. Lincoln. They opposed the sale of cheap beer and referred to AK Food Mart as not fitting with the development plan in the area. Ibarra expects the same type of racial tactics used to deny Singh a license will be used to deny Hispanics and non-Latino small business owners their licenses. Dertz and other development investors would then purchase the properties cheap, and push Latinos out, Ibarra said. Both Ald. Zielinski a member of the License Committee and 5th Ward Developer Dertz favor redevelopment in the area.
On Wednesday, Singh a native of India said his beer license was denied, but shortly afterwards a liquor and beer license was approved for a new trendy bar called “Tonic Tavern” currently under construction a block West of AK Food Mart at the address 2335 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. and W. Lincoln Ave. In that same 2300 block, the Highbury Pub, Grand Cafe Centraal, and Dee’s Wine Shop have liquor licenses to sell both alcohol and beer. Singh is now contemplating a class action lawsuit against the city.
Zielinski during the Licenses Committee hearing in December said, AK Food Mart had people loitering in the area, and to many liquor licenses had been issued in the area. Ald. Zielinski failed to mention at the hearing that another liquor license would be issued a month later to Paul Jonas who will operate the new Tonic Tavern being constructed without notifying neighbors as required by law. Developer Dertz owns the building where the Tonic is being constructed. Paul is the brother of Lulu’s Cafe owner Sarah Jonas.
The City of Milwaukee, Office of the City Treasurer 2008 property tax records for Dertz show that as of March 31, 2009, his property located at 347 E. Lincoln Ave. is Delinquent by $15,161.76.
About 20 people in the neighborhood came forward at the Licensing Committee on December 15, 2008 with alleged complaints of loitering, prostitution, public urination and panhandling near AK Food Mart. Police reports were inconsistent with those complaints and show no such activity was reported in the corner of W. Lincoln and S. Howell. Singh’s attorney Michael Maistelman said “economic and gentrification were the main issues for keeping his client from getting a beer license.”
Sarah Jonas, owner of Lulu’s Cafe said that they don’t want cheap brand name beer sold in the area because it would attract undesirable activity not consistent with revitalizing the area. In other words, most of the area business owners and residents who testified against granting a beer license to AK Food Mart don’t want low income people in the area of W. Lincoln and S. Howell. “Most of this business owners don’t realize that their business also depends and includes catering to the people in the area regardless of economic status. I’m sure some of these trendy business owners have received some kind of taxpayer monies from the city to revitalize their businesses and area. Who do they think the taxpayers’ money is coming from? It’s coming from the same people they are now trying to keep from the area!” emphasized a tax paying resident in the area.
AK Food Mart in the last 17 years of business has never had a beer license. In this case economic discrimination by the city Licensing Committee is alleged. Singh owns a prime development corner where both the AK Food Mart and a Mexican restaurant are located. Some of the trendy business owners and real estate investors who testified against AK Food Mart from getting a beer license have actually tried to buy Singh’s corner property. If Signh holds out for a few more years, his corner property could be very well be worth in the millions.
Last week, Raul Vasquez, editor of ¡Aquí! Milwaukee Journal Sentinel magazine said that he didn’t know how the name of Aquí was included as a sub consultant in the Near Southside advisory plan, and had the name removed from the DCD Internet web site naming consultants and other involved in the plan.
Consultants HNTB and Abrazo were paid nearly $150,000 to head the initial plans and provide service such props and other items to help explain the project. HNTB is a multidisciplinary firm known and respected for its work in transportation, bridges, aviation, architecture, urban design and planning, environmental engineering, water and construction services. Sub consultants are ABRAZO, and The Center for Neighborhood Technology.
The funding partners are the 5th Ward Association, Associated Bank, Continental Savings Bank, Council for the Spanish Speaking, E & Co., Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hope House, Layton State Bank, Lincoln Neighborhood Redevelopment Corporation, M&I, Mitchell Bank, Rockwell Automation, Sonag Company, Inc., Thomas A. Mason Co., Tri City National Bank, U.S. Bank, and Vidal & Associates, according to DCD.
Next public hearings will be held on April 20, at 1:30 p.m. at the City Plan Commission, 1st floor Board Room, 809 N. Broadway. The next meeting at, the Zoning, Neighborhoods, and Development Committee, on May 19, at 9:00 a.m. in Room 301 B, City Hall, 200 E. Wells St. Finally, the Common Council is scheduled to vote on the plan on May 27, at 9:00 a.m. in the Common Council Chambers in Room 301 B at City Hall, 200 E. Wells St. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.