By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 27, 2010 at 12:26 PM

If you've lived or spent any time on Milwaukee's East Side, then you likely know that Maryland Avenue Montessori School -- an MPS school -- has a sprawling, 3.5-acre sea of rupturing concrete for a school yard.

It's a vast amount of space -- the drool-inducing dream of more than one real estate developer -- that the school's PTO and administration realizes could be much better.

So, there is a plan afoot in the school to revamp the lot, ripping up the cracked concrete and listing staircases and replacing all of it with a grass soccer pitch, a rain garden, outdoor classrooms, planting gardens and more.

Making the very expensive changes -- which require grants and donations -- would have numerous benefits. And not just for those of us with connections to the school.

Greening that big space would be a massive visual improvement that can be enjoyed by the entire neighborhood. Kids (and nearby residents when school is out) would have more play options and learning options, too, if you think about how the children would get involved in the planting and maintaining gardens with their classes, as one example.

Replacing the non-porous concrete with dirt, grass and plantings -- and a rain garden -- would offer relief to the already overloaded city storm sewer system. And think of how many skinned knees would be replaced with simply grass-stained ones.

Improving the space could also help ensure that this long-standing East Side open space remains an undeveloped oasis.

Plans for the dream space were drawn up, but at the moment, the changes are still that ... a dream. A lot of money needs to be raised. But there is hope and we'll all have tangible evidence of that in coming weeks.

Money, labor and materials have been donated to kick off the project with a revamping of the school's Prospect Avenue entrance and the work is slated to take place in the first half of June. The result will be a much improved landscape on the school's eastern side.

Asphalt and an ugly chain link fence will be replaced with attractive pavers, lilacs, hydrangeas, coral bells, blooming trees and a large tree for shade. The finished work will also serve as an example of the potential for the rest of the space, the renovation of which would be a major neighborhood beautification project.

In the meantime, the PTO is still working on raising money to make the bigger project a reality. One fund-raising event on the books is the Rummage for Our Green Space in the school's yard on Saturday, June 19, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

For $25 you can get a spot to sell your rummage, your artwork or your crafts. That fee benefits the playground renovation and if you're feeling charitable you could also donate your day's take to the project, but you don't have to, of course.

If you are interested in volunteering please contact Vesla Hoeschen at If you're interested in donating to the greening of the playground, you can contact the Maryland Avenue Montessori PTO via e-mail at

Check out the Maryland Avenue Green Playground Facebook page here.

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.