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In Living Commentary

Milwaukee is home to many great neighborhoods, but which is best?

Which Milwaukee neighborhood is the best?


One of the greatest strengths of Milwaukee is its neighborhoods, enclaves where people live and where they make their homes.

And a question that people ask when they are deciding where to live is, "Is it a good neighborhood?" It's a simple question but the answer is complex and open to a lot of interpretation.

I've been thinking about neighborhoods lately and wondering where in Milwaukee are the good neighborhoods and which one is the best.

I won't pretend that the ideas I have that make up a great neighborhood are mine alone. In large measure they've been formed by my experiences and by reading Richard Florida, a world renowned urban theorist.

Florida wrote a book called "The Rise of the Creative Class" which, among other things, talks about the things that make up a great neighborhood and influence the way we live.

"When the Gallup Organization looked at what gives you a high degree of emotional attachment to your neighborhood, the answers were pretty surprising," he said in an interview when the book came out.

"Obviously, having a low crime rate and great schools and good jobs are important, but there were two other factors that were really critical. The first was a community that treats all of its residents fairly — ethnic minorities, new immigrants, low-income people, young people, old people, families, entrepreneurs, artists.

"And then the most important factor was what I call the quality of the neighborhood itself. Does it have trees? Does it have open space? Does it preserve its historic architecture? In other words, does it have some kind of physical beauty? This quality, the aesthetic character, was the number one factor. "

With that in mind I've been thinking about Milwaukee and which neighborhoods qualify as great and which ones have a way to go.

The East Side is often mentioned as the best neighborhood in the city. I lived on the East Side for much of my adult life and am tempted to agree. But looking at it dispassionately it doesn't really qualify.

The area is largely white and high income. If a great neighborhood has ethnic and economic diversity, the East Side seems to be missing it.

But it's a wonderful place to live, if you can afford it.

The Brewers Hill neighborhood is a candidate, mainly because of the outstanding architecture in the area.

The old factories have been turned into condominiums and the houses are a rich cultural mix. A drive through Brewers Hill will allow you to see some of the greatest home building this city has ever seen.

Riverwest, where I live, meets a lot of the requirements of a great neighborhood.

It's an appealing mix of residential and commercial, the population is one of the most diverse in the city and it has a lot of green space and physical beauty. One of the weaknesses of Riverwest is its proximity to some of the highest crime areas in the city.

The Sherman Park area will get a lot of votes as one of the longest lasting integrated neighborhoods in the city. There are some very gracious homes in Sherman Park, which at one time was the base of much of Milwaukee's Jewish community. Sherman Park, though, has been beset by spells of crime that have been a cause for concern.

The Jackson Park neighborhood on the South Side is the home for many municipal workers, police, firefighters and hospital workers. A recent influx of Hispanic residents has increased the diversity of the area and it is relatively free of crime with one of the most active block watch programs in the city.

Bay View can stake a claim as the best neighborhood in the city and it would be hard to argue. The area is diverse, in age, income, sexual preference and ethnicity, although it does lack a significant black population. The area is home to many wonderful commercial establishments from restaurants to bars and taverns and interesting shops.

No survey of great Milwaukee neighborhoods would be complete without a mention of Clarke Square. It is one of the most diverse communities in the city with a vast array of shops, restaurants, churches and community activities. It is home to the vibrant Latino community and features outstanding shopping.

It's hard to pick a best out of Milwaukee's neighborhoods and I'm sure I've left some places out. But one thing that's sure, the City of Milwaukee offers a lot of variety in living choices. It's a heck of a lot better than any of Milwaukee's suburbs.

Talkbacks

olsonc76 | April 30, 2012 at 8:49 a.m. (report)

Speakthetruth should be Speakyouropinion. I grew up in Wauwatosa and lived on the Eastside for a number of years before buying a home in Riverwest. I now have friends that after spending time at my home have purchased in Riverwest, all of which had the means to buy a home in any of the suburbs. Maybe you should stay in New Berlin and let the people that actually live in Milwaukee talk about which neighborhood we prefer.

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OGtripleOG | April 27, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. (report)

How bout story hill, silver city, burnham park, layton park or all the parkways? equal amounts of crime as the east side and arguably more walkable/convenient areas.

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speakthetruth | April 26, 2012 at 7:57 p.m. (report)

Begel, Gentrification is the only bona fide way to get rid of crime. Gentrification leads to preservation of architecture, more and better parks, trees, better restaurants, and cultural offerings. There is a reason why the homes in Sherman Park, while regal in some regards, have not appreciated in value the way that the homes on the east side have over the past 25 years. It isn't about black or white, Hispanic or Laotian. It is about people with the economic means to live in a nice neighborhood doing so--and that neighborhood is the east side. Every other neighborhood in Milwaukee is beset with crime and/or a lack of cultural/social/convenience offerings. The suburbs (any of them) beat Riverwest. Anyone who things otherwise is living a lie.

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