By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Oct 12, 2004 at 5:39 AM

Like all cities, Milwaukee's neighborhoods -- there are 75 of them -- undergo major changes every 10 or 20 years. For example, in the 1960s and '70s, the Northridge area was the picture of modern America with a galore of business and leisure opportunities, but today it's outdated and far from the cutting edge of contemporary lifestyles.

Although disinvestment continues to deplete certain neighborhoods like Milwaukee's North Side, interest in historic preservation has contributed to the renewal of many older neighborhoods in Milwaukee like Westown, Riverwest, Bay View and others.

In some cases, neighborhood upgrades inspired new neighborhood names.

Recently, some Milwaukeeans started referring to the far north end of Walker's Point as "The Fifth Ward."

Although the area was originally called the Fifth Ward when it was first settled, some think the name was re-adopted to attract people to the area who associate Walker's Point with crime, pollution and minorities.

"It seemed like they were trying to separate it (the Fifth Ward) from a semi-rough perception of Walker's Point by naming it something close to a successful, upscale area: the Third Ward," says former Fifth Ward resident, Leslie Worth.

Ald. James Witkowiak, whose district includes the Fifth Ward neighborhood, also believes part of the reason for the name change is to alter perceptions.

"Some think it's 'trendy' to refer to the area as the 'Fifth Ward' following the success of the developments in the Third Ward," he says.

Trendy or not, many people think the name change is a good idea and that it's necessary to differentiate Walker's Point since its National Avenue businesses are very different from the businesses that have opened on the far north side of the area in the past four years.

"It's a ripple effect. What's happened in the Third Ward is now happening there. It's great for the city," says Nancy O'Keefe, executive director of the Historic Third Ward Association.

But the issue of gentrification is a mixed bag, one that many Milwaukeeans struggle with. Recently, many people – including a plethora of "empty nesters" – moved back to the city from the suburbs in search of entertainment options, excitement and diversity. However, as housing values increase and lower-income people are forced out of once-affordable neighborhoods, diversity wanes.

Plus, it seems that when a neighborhood changes names, only pockets of the residents embrace the change – or are even aware of it. For example, Walter Sava, the executive director of the United Community Center, has lived and worked in the neighborhood for many years, but never heard of the Fifth Ward when asked.

"I'm not familiar with 'The Fifth Ward,'" says Sava, suggesting that, perhaps, the "Fifth Ward" name is embraced by a generation geared towards nightlife and condo-living as opposed to longstanding "pillars" in the community.

Roughly 15 years ago another Brew City neighborhood underwent a similar situation. Suddenly, Milwaukeeans started to hear buzz about a neighborhood called Brewers Hill, the name given specifically to the south end of the historic Harambee neighborhood that's bounded by Capitol Drive on the north, Holton Street on the east, Walnut Street on the south and Interstate-43 on the west.

At first, the name change was perplexing to many long-time Harambee residents. Some felt "Brewers Hill" was adopted because it would be more appealing to potential home buyers than "Harambee," a Kenyan word.

Within a few years, dozens of white, middle class families renovated the decaying Victorians into stunning estates that were colorfully and tastefully painted. Today, many of those homes sell for $300,000 and more, raising the question of gentrification.

Kevin Sloan, owner of The Social in Walker's Point, says the new name is not good or bad, rather more accurate.

"The new businesses that have opened in what's now called the Fifth Ward (Moct Bar, Barclay Gallery, etc.) are slanted towards the underground, slightly more artistic and unique from established business in Walker's Point," says Sloan.

Sloan will move his business three blocks north in a few months and is currently in the process of deciding whether to reprint "Walker's Point" on his business materials or switch to the "Fifth Ward."

"I'm just not sure yet," he says. "Although I do like the images that the 'Fifth Ward' conjure. Kind of like the Third Ward, but more diverse."

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.