By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 12, 2013 at 9:40 AM

Next week DCD Commissioner Rocky Marcoux and Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs will host a charette – which is a 75-cent word for an intensive architectural or development planning meeting – aimed at kickstarting development at a number of sites in the Bronzeville neighborhood.

The charette – which takes place Dec. 16 from 8:15 a.m. until 4 p.m. at UWM School of Architecture & Urban Planning, 2131 E. Hartford Ave. – follows another one focused held back in June focused on King Drive.

That meeting resulted in five projects for its focus area, including the Malcolm X Academy redevelopment, which has since taken big steps forward, Milwaukee Enterprise Center redevelopment, a new parking lot that has helped return the long-lived Gee’s Clippers barber shop back to the street, and the redevelopment of a building on King Drive and Center Street.

Also among the projects sparked in June is a redevelopment plan for the old Fifth Street School, which I’ve written about a number of times, both in relation to its history and architecture (and departed twin sister, Walnut Street School)
 and in its current state.

In January, I wrote that I feared for the future of this treasure of Milwaukee architectural and educational history. I feared that the explosion of development all around the school might lead some to fight for its demolition and replacement with the row houses that have popped up all around it.

But, in the fact, I’m happy to say, that development appears to have helped ensure the survival of Herman P. Schnetzky’s Romanesque Revival schoolhouse.

Perhaps taking cues from the successful redevelopment of the former Mound Street School in Bay View and the old Peckham Junior High/Jackie Robinson Middle School into senior housing, the June charette – with Continuum Architects – resulted in a call for nearly 40 units of senior housing on the second and third floors of the school, which most recently served as home to the Isaac Coggs Community Health Center.

The first floor would have shared community space at the south end of the 1888 building that could be utilized by the neighboring Mount Moriah Baptist Church, which would also share parking and green space on the site.

I’m happy to report that the charette suggested razing the low addition stapled to the south end of the building sometime in the second half of the 20th century.

Let’s hope this plan gives another housing plan at the former Dover Street School in Bay View some more juice, too.

According to the charette documentation, the next steps are: "The BID and EDC should work with the Department of City Development on developing an RFP for this site. The development of senior housing on this site may necessitate the utilization of tax credits, unless it is constructed as market rate housing. Development, site ownership,and maintenance discussions should also include Mt. Mariah Baptist Church as a key member of the neighborhood and site."

I’d like to add one further step to this exciting proposal to preserve and reuse a building that has been a community landmark for more than 125 years: strip off the white paint and restore the building’s cream city brick splendor.


Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.