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Downtown's future is here.
Downtown's future is here.

Jump aboard, it's OK

I love your car, your bike, your shoes.  You look good.  Even you, you streetcar opponents.  I don't, though, understand why you are so scared about a streetcar.  Probably never will. 

Oh well, that's life in the big city.  Reality is that Milwaukee is behind the modern transportation times. Sure, we have other – some may say – bigger challenges.  True.  But we don't effectively connect our highly populated areas to jobs, and we haven't used fixed-guideway transit and streetcars as tools to help focus and direct economic development.

We haven't, yet. But, we will or better yet soon will. And, it's about time. So, if you care about the future of Wisconsin's largest city you should contact the mayor and/or your alderman.   Now.  In advance of this week's council meeting. 

All things happen as they should and as Milwaukee gets closer and closer to realizing the economic potential of a streetcar system it's time to think of this project for what it is – a part of our infrastructure that includes roads, cars, buses, trolleys, rail, bikes, trails, buildings and more.

The streetcar isn't a catch all solution to Milwaukee's problems nor is it a problem in and of itself.  It will help shape the brand and identity of Milwaukee, though. Go to any city. They all have buildings, people, stores, etc. People talk about what's new, what got them from here to there. The Milwaukee streetcar will do this, and more.  Watch a sporting event.  What do the networks showcase in their opening city scene coverage?  It's always pictures and video of water and a trolley, train or a streetcar.  Always. 

The streetcar is about economic development and building a more sociable and connected state. We already are a very sociable city, but it's hard to get from one part of town to another without a car. And today and into the future, people expect to have this option.  Employers know this. So, don't forget that this is about recruitment and retention. 

As a Downtown …

The MECCA floor.
The MECCA floor. (Photo: David Bernacchi)

Why Koller is selling Milwaukee's iconic MECCA floor

Via email today, Ben Koller, who I shared an office with for a while and did my small part to help with his awesome MECCA project, reached out to me and others in the media to let us know that he's selling the historic MECCA basketball floor.

If you don't know the story, click here for the "30 for 30" documentary short or here for the first (and first in the market) story on the floor's sale. 

Personally, I truly feel that this floor should "live and breathe" somewhere in Milwaukee. It makes sense to somehow integrate it into a new Downtown arena or convention center expansion.  I'll hopeful it can happen.  Obviously, Ben Koller wants to sell it to make it happen too. 

Here's his statement. 

"Since the day my father purchased the MECCA Floor he was set upon the idea that I
was the perfect person to lead the charge. On a surface level it made sense. I was a
basketball fanatic throughout my scholastic years and then became enamored with the
art of creativity in my twenties. Yet I couldn’t quite figure out why he was so adamant
about me leading this endeavor, especially during the most turbulent time of my life.
The last time we spent together, the day before he died, my father gave me a key insight
as to why he was choosing me. It was bigger than just finding a permanent home for
the MECCA Floor, it was about finding a purpose for my life. I know that sounds a bit
esoteric. At the time I felt the same way, but now as I write these words I sit in awe at
the wisdom of a man seeking the best for his son and offering him a path to create his
own clarity in life.

Over the past three and a half years I’ve dedicated my life to honoring my father’s
request. I’ve literally bled, sweat and tear’d along this quest. Like a lump of coal is
transformed into a diamond under immense pressure, the MECCA Floor molded and
shaped me into the man my father always knew I could become. Because of this
process alone I can move forward with my life knowing that I honored t…

Larry and his wife, Audra.
Larry and his wife, Audra. (Photo: Facebook)

Cheers to you, Ilario "Larry" Fazzari

My wife said it best, "Larry made it comfortable, welcoming for me to sit at the bar, talk and just be myself."  For the Shermans, the Calderone Club is "our club." It's blocks from our Downtown condo, a regular stop before and after Bucks and Marquette games and well, it's family.  Not to mention, it's home to the best pizza in greater Milwaukee.

This weekend,  Ilario (Larry) Fazzari passed away.  Larry, only 57, was a dad, a husband, a grandfather, a passionate "car guy," and one of the best front house restaurant people you'll ever meet. 

I'd often sit at the Calderone Club bar, with my then 2- or 3-year-old, son and Larry would talk cars, sports and life with Jake (my son) and I.  It was what he did. 

He cared, he built family and with his family he's helped grow Calderone Club into a greater Milwaukee institution.  He'd high five my son, chat him up and Jake couldn't wait for his next trip so Larry could make him a custom "kiddy cocktail," and ask him about school, basketball and his family.  Yep, family. That was Larry. 

He, as you may know, not only worked at the Downtown but helped run the Fox Point Calderone location with his brother Carmelo.  His brother Gino runs Downtown.  Calderone, needless to say, is a family business so when a family member passes away the extended family (all of us as customers) cry, pray and care. 

Larry had a smile that never quit, a charm that was all his own and a sense of humor that I just want to hug him now for.  I'm fighting back the tears typing his, but know that time next time my family prays and toasts (and many more after that) we'll honor Larry and all that he did to make us all smile, care and truly understand the value of family. 

A full spring and summer of Bublr is something to look forward to.
A full spring and summer of Bublr is something to look forward to.

15 things to look forward to in 2015

I could easily find 15 things every day that I look forward to, but for the sake of a catchy headline and an easy to digest blog here are 15 things that I'm truly looking forward to in this new year that is 2015.

  1. The new season of "House of Cards."  Feb. 27 on Netflix.  
  2. Cheers when one of the area’s worst grocery stores, the crappy Pick 'N Save on Oakland Avenue in Shorewood finally begins its transition into a Metro Market.
  3. The ground breaking for the new Kimpton Hotel on the northeast corner of East Chicago Street and Broadway in the Historic Third Ward
  4. Finally, something new in the former Blackthorn space at 750 N. Jefferson St.?
  5. More unbundling and customization for content and video delivery on all platforms.  See HBOGo without a cable subscription.
  6. Garth Brooks, U2 or Taylor Swift at Summerfest?
  7. Henry Ellenson and the other 2015 men’s basketball recruits at Marquette University.
  8. A full summer and second season of Bublr bikes.
  9. Changes to and some big, new fun on Wisconsin Avenue, including the second season of the Newaukee Night Market.
  10. A new Downtown Milwaukee arena location announcement.
  11. Buzz building for "Finding Dory."  Come on, admit it you loved "Finding Nemo," too.  
  12. A definitive, official groundbreaking for modern transit and the Milwaukee Streetcar.
  13. The opening of Ward 4, the new startup hub inside Milwaukee's historic Pritzlaff Building.
  14. Something new and charitable like the ice bucket challenge that rises organically, builds community, buzz and helps us all better connect around a cause. You know something will emerge.  Why not make it happen yourself!? 
  15. More amazing developments and some exciting announcements from  How’s that for a tease? 

Happy new year, everyone.