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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

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How about an adult swing park?
How about an adult swing park? (Photo: Flint)

5 ideas for O'Donnell Park

Now that NEWaukee is partnering with Northwestern Mutual to help gather community ideas for sparking life in O’Donnell Park, Milwaukeeans will get a chance to sound off on what they’d like to see happen on this prime Downtown and lakefront real estate.

At a public hearing recently, NEWaukee heard, according to a press release, "that the community wants a safe, well-maintained and attractive public space."

Sure, we all want that at every location in town. But how about more specifically? What will lure us to the site?

You can share and hear ideas at the NEWaukee Social on Wednesday, Oct. 1, from 5 to 8 p.m, at O’Donnell Park. You can also submit ideas online at But in the meantime, here are some ideas to get you talking...

  • An adult swing park like this one. Not THAT kind of adult swinging; get your mind out of the gutter.
  • A European-style piazza with cafes, shops and restaurants and a central gathering spot that can serve as a meeting and mingling and hanging out spot for Downtown dwellers, workers and visitors.
  • A simple, greener park that has less concrete, but more plantings and grass for recreation and relaxation.
  • Quirkier garden spaces like the bamboo, shadow and other gardens at Paris’ Parc de la Villette.
  • A permanent home for the NEWaukee Night Market.

Share your ideas using the Talkback feature below. 

The former Malcolm X Academy on Center and Palmer Streets is back in the news.
The former Malcolm X Academy on Center and Palmer Streets is back in the news.

Malcolm (X) in the middle

Last Friday, Milwaukee Public Schools issued a statement saying that it had parted ways with the developer of a project to renovate and re-develop the former Malcolm X Academy/Center Street School, at Center and Palmer Streets, noting that the plan would nevertheless continue to move forward.

"The district will continue to work on the construction of the project and will issue a Request for Proposals for a construction manager," the statement said. MPS spokesman Tony Tagliavia told me that the plan still includes opening an International Baccalaureate middle school in the complex.

Yesterday, in a news report, a district official was quoted as saying MPS ended the deal with the development team after a member of the latter made a "questionable request," though apparently that same news outlet -- which also ran a pro-voucher school editorial yesterday -- didn't ask about, or at least didn't report on, what that request might have been. 

On a related side note, the local media continues to ignore the fact that a number of school buildings that were recently vacant have been sold, among them Jackie Robinson, Dover and Centro Del Nino. An RFP was issued for the sale of the former Garfield Avenue School yesterday, after a previous prospective buyer failed to get financing.

Many more such buildings have recently been called back into service by the district -- 27th Street School, Green Bay Avenue, Howard Avenue, Sarah Scott, Milwaukee Education Center, Fritsche Middle School, Happy Hill, Morse Middle School, Webster Middle School, Burroughs Middle School, Westside Academy II building, 38th Street School (in some cases to house charter schools) among them. There's been talk, too, of re-opening Fletcher on the far northwest, and/or 88th Street on the far southwest sides.

Changing needs and changing demographics mean that the district is smart to hold on to buildings that could be of future use. What would taxpayers -- and Milwaukee media -- say if MPS sold a building a…

Milwaukee's new city services MKE Mobile app is basic and easy to use.
Milwaukee's new city services MKE Mobile app is basic and easy to use.

City app lets you access services on your phone

Yesterday, Mayor Tom Barrett unveiled a new mobile app that offers access to a range of city services. Today, I downloaded it, nosed around and took it for a spin to get an annoying pothole filled.

Created by Lagan Technologies, the 10.1-megabyte MKE Mobile app can be downloaded free at the iTunes app store and via Google Play

The description at the iTunes store says, "Milwaukee Mobile provides quick access to City of Milwaukee information and services via your mobile device. The tool enables citizens to report issues and request services. The app uploads maps, citizen photos, and complaint info to City of Milwaukee servicing departments to be assigned, tracked, and resolved."

The design is pretty basic and the main screen offers a quintet of options, including "file new report," for requesting services for graffiti, potholes, weed/tall grass complains, abandoned vehicles, street lighting and trash/recycling pickup.

"My reports" allows users to track status of opened requests. "Other services" links to city website pages for parking and visitor information, garbage and recycling pickup schedules, and access to more services not included in the app.

"How to use" is pretty self-explanatory. But the app seems pretty self-explanatory, too, so I doubt you'll spend much time choosing this option. If you can't figure out the app, you probably wouldn't have been able to even find and download it in the first place.

Finally there's an "info" option that allows you to send feedback about the app.

I clicked on "potholes" to give it a whirl and sent a service request for ditch that I swerve to avoid every afternoon.

That led to a menu that let me select the location of the issue, upload a photo, add additional information (in 100 characters or less, which might not be enough for even mildly complicated issues), opt for confidentiality and input contact information. Filling it took seconds; the location feature zooms right in to the location. 

As soon as I click…

Henry C. Koch's 1887 Garfield Avenue School is on the National Register of Historic Places. And rightfully so.
Henry C. Koch's 1887 Garfield Avenue School is on the National Register of Historic Places. And rightfully so.

DCD issues RFP for Garfield Elementary

I want to make sure the landmark Garfield Avenue School -- designed by famed Milwaukee architect Henry Koch -- survives. So, if I had half a mil, I’d buy it in a second. 

What would I do with it? Well, I'd invite MPS to open an "east" region Montessori middle/high school in part of it for a start.

Today, the Department of City Development sent out an RFP notification about the building on 4th and North, describing it as among the city’s "Commercial Properties, Development Opportunities/RFP's, Surplus MPS Properties."

Included in the documentation was a report from a 2013 charette for the Bronzeville neighborhood that listed among its goals the creation of a cultural center in the schoolhouse.

A year ago, the building -- which was built on a then-innovative I-shaped plan with a single, double-loaded corridor affording all classrooms light and air -- appeared to have been sold and such a center on its way toward development. But, then it fell apart.

But the DCD still hopes to achieve that goal.

"Make the Bronzeville Design Charette come to life at the historic former Garfield School in the heart of the Bronzeville District," reads the RFP announcement email. "The community envisioned this former school and adjoining property becoming a dynamic community arts center, public plaza and housing opportunity in the heart of Bronzeville. Help us realize that goal."

Garfield was built in 1887, when under Superintendent William Anderson, MPS couldn’t build schoolhouses quickly enough to meet demand. A couple dozen were erected and many added on to or planned under Anderson’s watch from 1883 to 1892.

Koch’s Romanesque Revival Garfield was among the most beautiful and, today, along with Eighth Street School and the Kagel/Golda twins, it is still the loveliest in town.

After a summer 2011 visit to the school, I described it like this:

Though it was daytime and the lights were on and we were not alone – it was an official visit. We didn't sneak in – an emp…