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Haymarket has some vintage buildings crying out for restoration and repurposing, like this one currently in development.
Haymarket has some vintage buildings crying out for restoration and repurposing, like this one currently in development.

Arena discussion should turn around and look north

Every day, I drive along the northern border of the Haymarket neighborhood and I wonder why it's so neglected. Sure, there's activity there (see below) – the neighborhood is hardly a secret – but it seems ripe for so much more.

Since the Park East freeway spur no longer slices it off from Downtown, Haymarket can be a vibrant bridge not only between Downtown and Bronzeville but also between those areas and the booming (former Pabst) Brewery complex and Brewers Hill, too.

The neighborhood is adjacent to Schlitz Park, which edges closer and closer to full occupancy. On King Drive, in Haymarket, are the Park East Enterprise Lofts. There's a new park and bank branch along McKinley Boulevard, across from National Ace Hardware, the city's best hardware store. Bartolotta Restaurants is headquartered in the neighborhood and so is Miller Bakery.

Across the Park East is the Aloft Hotel and the Moderne residential tower. There's new development on the western edge, including a new $21 million Sojourner Family Peace Center building going up across 6th Street in Hillside at Walnut.

Across Walnut, in Bronzeville, there's a new development on tap for the old Garfield Avenue School.

In all of the discussions of the siting of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, the discussion has been about connecting to Wisconsin Avenue and points south of the current Bradley Center, or to the river. But, let's not ignore the other side.

A new arena on the land north of the Bradley Center – which appears to be the favored location now –and a range of related mixed-use developments in the Park East corridor could cause development in Haymarket to go, well, haywire.

There's some amazing vintage building stock that could be transformed and there are a number of vacant sites – mostly surface parking lots – that would appear ripe for construction. Look at the satellite view in Google Maps and Haymarket land looks more empty than not. Much like the Third Ward, not all that long ago, th…

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The Pink Poodle was on the far southwest side.
The Pink Poodle was on the far southwest side.

The behemoth organist, a Pink Poodle and, um, Mammy's?

Old newspaper ads for Milwaukee clubs open a world of unwritten history.

In the 1961 collection we see above, there's info about a My Office on Muskego Avenue, not to be confused with the one still open Downtown, where you could hear Sonny Kraft's Country Gentlemen and "western and roll 'n' roll music" by Ed Porter.

There was also a Celebrity Club on 12th Street, just south of Walnut in Bronzeville, where singer and pianist Mary Reed was accompanied by bassist Bill Jordan, who my friend College Dave remembers later as the owner of Mayfield's.

In other "doppelganger" bar news, there was also a place called The Tonic at 900 S. 16th St. Like the eponymous place in Bay View today, the old Tonic hosted live music.

I'm intrigued by Maynard's Wagon Wheel, which had country music by Sonny Williams and His Band – playing covers, it seems – and Valenti's Blue Ridge Lounge's Hawaiian musical weekend. Both those sites are now vacant. Same is true for the site of Mr. Kelly's on Juneau (previously known as the Diplomat Musical Lounge), which hosted jazz, just like the Driftwood Lounge on Capitol Drive, across from WTMJ, did.

The Gay 90's on 5th and Michigan was keeping vaudeville alive with "song," "fun" and "music" and A place at "2358 N. (Upper) 3rd St.," called Greg Logan's Cocktail Room, hosted "Tom and Jerrys' Flaming Blue Blazers."

But what caught my eye most of all was the Pink Poodle on Highway 100 and Beloit Road. Who would expect to a find a pink poodle, real or imagined, all the way out there?

But the Pink Poodle must've been the place to be if Chubby Neiland was playing there.

Neiland was described in 1953 as "the behemoth organist at the Five O'Clock Club," in a Sentinel tidbit that recounted this episode:

"(Neiland) was spotted eating one of those huge steaks in a local eatery. A friend passed by and looked at the enormous steak and remarked, 'Surely you're not going to eat that alone, are you?' Without looking up from the meat platter, Chubby replied p…

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MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House today.
MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House today.

Dr. Driver meets with Obama at the White House today

Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver is one of nearly a dozen leaders of urban school districts headed to the White House this morning to meet with President Barack Obama as part of the Council of the Great City Schools' three-day annual legislative/policy conference in Washington.

The group was scheduled to join Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a luncheon Sunday at the Mayflower Hotel, followed by a 7 a.m. (central) breakfast with Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon today and a lunch at noon with Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat who sits on the House Education/Workforce Committee.

Joining the leaders for their 10 a.m. meeting with Obama is Council of the Great City Schools executive director Michael Casserly.

Dr. Driver sits on the executive committee of the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents 76 big city school districts to, in the words of its mission statement, "to promote the cause of urban schools and to advocate for inner-city students through legislation, research and media relations."

A news conference, in which Dr. Driver will participate, will follow the meeting.

My wish is that Dr. Driver tells President Obama and Arne Duncan to return some sanity to the world of testing.

What message do you hope she brings to the White House?

UPDATE

Here is Dr. Driver's statement issued after Monday's meeting at the White House:

"I am grateful for the opportunity we had to share the progress urban districts are making, to share the innovative practices we are putting in place to accelerate our growth and to reiterate our support for being accountable for student achievement. It was also an opportunity to express concern about the proposals to reauthorize Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that would reduce funding for many of the highest-need, highest-poverty districts in the United States.

"Milwaukee Public Schools is proud to join with our CGCS colleagues in serving all students. Any …

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Bern Boys - furniture shop by day - hive of furious artistic energy around the clock.
Bern Boys - furniture shop by day - hive of furious artistic energy around the clock.

My door to Milwaukee was at 805 S. 5th St.

Writing these past two weeks about disappeared Milwaukee rock clubs and Downtown in the 1980s has me a little bleary eyed with nostalgia. And my Milwaukee reminiscences almost always lead straight back to one building in Walker's Point.

I spent a few months trying to work out this town alone upon my arrival from New York City in 1983 before I met Mick Lexington, who back then was better known in Milwaukee music circles as Mike Layton.

Spending a lot of time Downtown maybe it was a given I'd meet him. We rode the 20 bus at the same times and passed each other on the street, until one day he approached me, asked if I played an instrument and invited me down to meet his band The Laytons.

A poet and graffiti artist, Mick had a studio on the third floor of the Bern Boys building at 805 S. 5th St. – a gorgeous four-story furniture store and warehouse building on the corner of National Avenue.

I've never said this to him, but I admired Mick. He was a tornado of artistic energy, clapping out poems on his typewriter and creating explosions of Krylon-ic color, in addition to writing songs and walking nearly as quickly as I did. He played gigs, he did poetry readings and he entered his visual art in the Lakefront Festival of Arts.

When I entered the Bern Boys realm, I was introduced to a slew of Milwaukee artists of all stripes.

Renowned photographer Frank Ford had a loft studio that sprawled across the top floor. Down the hall from us was a large space occupied by actor John Kishline. I met Mike Hoffmann and the R&B Cadets while they recorded "Top Happy" in Kishline's big corner loft.

Smaller spaces were occupied by artist and, later gallery owner, Kent Mueller and renegade veteran poet and bad boy John Jeske, who apparently also camped upstairs with Ford for a time.

Much like The Fortress now, the relatively cheap rent helped create a haven for creativity.

Mueller and Jeske – along with Jim Pattison and Nick Cippollone – were members of Goal Zero Poetry …

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