By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Oct 03, 2009 at 10:15 AM

Construction season never ends and Milwaukee's East Side has a new dose of it as crews descended on Downer Avenue this week.

Trucks were ripping up old brick sidewalks and crews were laying the groundwork for several improvements that are long overdue.

I asked a few people at Starbucks, 2559 N. Downer Ave., what they thought about the construction and most, while mildly irritated at the inconvenience, said that updated sidewalks, new planters and a much-need bike lane would greatly improve the already strong bones of the walkable street.

I, though, wanted to know more about project so I reached out to the Department of Public Works.

Cecilia Gilbert, Permits & Communications Manager at DPW, told me that the project is driven and mostly financed by the Downer Avenue Business Improvement District. Gilbert provided the following letter from Downer Avenue BID Director Jake Provan to Mayor Tom Barrett. The letter, dated, Sept. 18, 2009, details the project.

Dear Mayor Barrett:

The Historic Downer Avenue Business Improvement District would like to thank Ghassan Korban, the Traffic Signals Department, Street Lighting Department, Department of Forestry, and all other DPW departments involved in the quick and positive response to the Historic Downer Avenue streetscape project concerns, budget limitations, and needs.

The contractor, project manager, and I were able to meet with various DPW department heads yesterday and the result of the meeting was the cooperative effort to ensure that the Downer Avenue Streetscape project will occur this autumn and fall within the budget limitations of the Historic Downer Avenue Business Improvement District.

The Historic Downer Avenue Business Improvement District, property owners, merchants, neighbors, and the City will soon have a streetscape on Milwaukee's Historic East Side that will be of the highest quality in terms of function and appearance. The cooperation allows the plans to include a brand new concrete substrate, new city conduit beneath the substrate, full size pavers, new asphalt, and several amenities that will provide a lifetime of street enhancement throughout the Historic Downer Avenue District. The commitment of the City and DPW to work with our District is greatly appreciated.

Again, on behalf of the Historic Downer Avenue Business Improvement District, I want to thank Ghassan, the City, and DPW for their commitment, effort, and cooperation. The optimism is high on Downer Avenue and the streetscape improvements will hopefully provide the spark Downer Avenue needs for a revitalized and successful future.


Jake Provan
Executive Director, Historic Downer Avenue BID #41

This project could pave the way for continued development, more retail and possibly a boutique hotel.  

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.