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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 15, 2014

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In Living

Living in Milwaukee has its merits. Three seasons out of four, anyway.

Moving to Milwaukee: Is it a good idea?


Last week, CNBC.com listed Milwaukee as one of "20 cities you don't want to live in ... yet."

The article -- which Jeff Sherman reported in a blog last week -- noted Milwaukee students have low school scores and the city has above-average crime and unemployment rates. Detroit, Baltimore. St. Louis, Cleveland and Memphis also made the list.

On the flip side, in 2010, Milwaukee was rated America's second-most "relaxed" cities by Forbes Magazine. Forbes stated that Milwaukee was a city that allowed residents to easily obtain a healthy balance between work and life.

According to Jeannine Sherman, Visit Milwaukee's director of public relations, 96 percent of Milwaukee's workers have a work commute that takes less than an hour and, on average, Milwaukee's work week is 38.4 hours.

"Our quality of life here is amazing. We have incredibly talented, nationally-recognized, performing arts groups and diverse, world-class attractions that appeal to any age or interest, from the Milwaukee Art Museum to the Harley-Davidson Museum," says Jeannine Sherman.

In response to this, OnMilwaukee.com turned to current residents who recently moved to Milwaukee and asked them why they migrated and if they were satisfied with their decision.

Stephanie Stella grew up in Milwaukee. She moved back to the city in 2001 for graduate school, and in 2003 moved to Austin, Texas and later, to Lucca, Italy. In 2008, she again returned to Milwaukee, after living in Guatemala, to finish her Ph.D.

Her reasons for repeatedly returning to Milwaukee are rooted in family and lifestyle. Plus, world travel has affected her perception of safety.

"Milwaukee has always provided me with opportunities, both academic and career. There's a naturalness and unpretentiousness to the people here that I really appreciate and feel comfortable with," says Stella.

"I think the city offers financially accessible cultural and artistic opportunities that are also high quality. More than many other places in the Americas, I feel it's pretty easy and safe to get around Milwaukee by foot, bike and public transportation. The cost of living is pretty low. And the family is here."

Julie Ragland and her husband, Russ Fascia, moved back to Milwaukee twice in 10 years. The couple moved to London for five years and later to Dubai for almost three years. Both moves were for work opportunities and the chance to see the world from a different perspective. Today, the couple lives in Bay View.

"There's a myth that bigger cities offer better cultural / art advantages. The fact is that these cultural opportunities in a big city are often very inaccessible," says Ragland.

"In London, for example, if we wanted to see a play we had to leave our house 90 minutes before it started to ensure that we would have enough time to get to it. Milwaukee is filled with more culture and art than we could ever get to, and we can usually go at the drop of a hat. We go to far more events here than we ever did in London."

Of course, not everyone is thrilled with their move to Milwaukee. It really boils down to luck -- or lack of it -- in some cases.

Mike Harding and his wife, Becca, moved to Milwaukee from St. Louis in 2008 because Mike got a job at a large corporation. Within six months, he was laid off, and Becca was unable to work because she was at the end of a complicated pregnancy.

"We saw the dark side of Milwaukee, and because we had no previous experience here, we're still not big fans today," she says. "Mike has struggled to find work and because I was bed-ridden, we didn't make any friends for months. Now, it's a little better because we have a few friends and awesome neighbors. But I still want to move as soon as possible."

Lisa Goldman moved back to Milwaukee after living in Santa Fe, N.M., for 10 years. She moved back for a relationship, which did not work out, and although she considered moving back to New Mexico, she is glad she decided to stay in Milwaukee.

"I was absolutely devastated by what happened in this relationship and I was ready to tuck my tail between my legs and run back to Santa Fe. But I had a previous network of strong female friends here who rallied around me, helped me out emotionally. Milwaukee is amazing in that it is a paradox: a small city feel within a large city. I reconnected with a lot of old friends, and networked like mad," says Goldman.

Because of her previous Milwaukee connections and many friends, Goldman landed two jobs in Milwaukee: as a producer at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee and as a MIAD instructor.

"If you had asked me this question eight months ago, I would have provided you a very different answer. Now, I feel like there is some major karmic retribution taking place. And I have many, many friends and family to thank. So, the new journey begins. We shall see where it takes me," says Goldman.

Talkbacks

butterfly | Oct. 5, 2011 at 9:20 p.m. (report)

My biggest problems with living in Milwaukee are the outrageously overpriced, dumpy houses we are forced to either rent or purchase and the ridiculously insane property taxes to go along with them, the roads riddled with potholes, the massive ghetto that swallows a good portion of the city beginning a mile west of the lake, and the overall unfriendly character of its' inhabitants. I think Milwaukee gets mistakenly labeled as laid back and friendly because its' residents like to drink it up nice, but I've learned from experience and living in the south that NOTHING compares to southern hospitality. Nor does the norm for offering luxurious, affordably priced housing; people, check out the south...seriously. And if you relocate to Georgia or Florida, take advantage of the almost free college tuition that they use their state lottery money to pay for, unlike Wisconsin, which uses its' lottery money for offering a minor kickback on its' already outrageously overpriced property tax. Is living in Milwaukee really worth the serious damage it does to your wallet while giving very little in return? I say not.

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brewcitypaul | March 31, 2011 at 9:21 a.m. (report)

I'm really sick of so many Milwaukeeans fulfilling the self-prophecy of "Milwaukee is a terrible place to live". I would like to see an article on how local media can help to change national perspective on our city. Your world is what you make it and there is just about anything that you can need want in this city without the hassle of the big cities. Sports, culture, entertainment, racial diversity, restaurants, etc. If you want something, you can find, just need to get off your butt.

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CoolerKing | March 31, 2011 at 7:36 a.m. (report)

To compare Milwaukee (or any major city in the U.S.) to anywhere in Europe is like comparing Milwaukee to another planet. Different governments, different economies, different ways of life.

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Hmong | March 31, 2011 at 12:15 a.m. (report)

ok, it seems like people want a list of reasons why you shouldn't move to Milwaukee. So here it is.... 1. Gov Scott Walker. When you hear this name, stay far away. 2. Pot holes. lots and lots of it. 3. Black people live in the North side. Mexican live in the South side. Asian live in between North and South. White people live in the East and West. 4. Don't bet on the Brewers. 5. Miller Brewer headquarter moved to Chicago. 6. There is a Casino right in the center of Milwaukee (this can be viewed as positive for business, but bad for your saving!) 7. Adults entertainment are outside of Milwaukee. 8. The Malls have a lot of empty stores. 9. There are very limited animals at the Zoo and yet the price is amazingly high. 10. And last but not least.........you should not move to Milwaukee because YOU WILL NOT HAVE ANY UNION RIGHTS!!!!!!!!!! (If you can even find a job first)

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EastSideMKE | March 30, 2011 at 4:18 p.m. (report)

The reason Milwaukee is so "relaxed" is because half of the city is unemployed and/or underemployed. Milwaukee and Chicago take the cake as far as racial segregation is concerned. I have a feeling that all of the people who were interviewed for this story were white. And did anyone else notice that all of the people in the article who didn't like Milwaukee had some dilemma with their job, health, or love life; nobody complained about the city itself? Like it was their fault they didn't have a good experience here, not because our infrastructure is crumbling, we're decades behind in public transportation, there's no investment from the business community, there's no leadership in government, there's no cooperation from the suburbs, there's no vision for the future. Milwaukee is a punchline.

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