By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jan 30, 2003 at 5:25 AM Photography: Molly Snyder

Milwaukee's south side is a diverse collection of varied neighborhoods. But you'd never know it asking most people here. To them, the south side is a specific thing. Either it's a neighborhood full of Polish-Americans with stereotypical Milwaukee accents or it's the place most of the city's Latino residents call home.

But there's a section of the south side lined with lovely brick bungalows that are drawing newcomers from all over town. It's also the place where you can find great Indian food at Bombay Sweets, 3401 S. 13th St., vintage records at Mean Mountain Music, 926 W. Oklahoma Ave., and the yummy babka at Bella Bakery, 960 W. Oklahoma Ave.

The neighborhood has such a low profile that even many residents aren't sure what to call it.

"Actually, I don't believe it has a name," says Jordan Dechambre, who moved to the area last year from the East Side with her partner Garrett Childers. "I just say it's just outside of Bay View on the South Side."

The city has dubbed it Polonia, in honor, we presume, of its Polish heritage.

But despite its image problem -- which may not be a problem at all, but rather something that makes it a well-kept secret -- Dechambre already feels comfortable there.

"I do like the neighborhood," she says. "I believe it's a safe place, and never feel unsafe inside or outside of my home. It is a quiet place to live, and I think our block has a lot of charm and character -- big (and small) brick houses everywhere. There's always someone out walking their dog, all the houses are lit up at Christmas and the gardens are beautiful in the summer. Clean alleys too -- that sound weird but a real estate agent once told us that says a lot about the neighborhood."

Childers says they looked at between 40 and 50 homes in Milwaukee before choosing the one they did.

"There are a lot of brick homes and my grandmother lives about four blocks away and she thinks it's safe," Childers says. "I wanted to start with a duplex, and found quality at a value that was better than any other place that I looked and was in an area that I felt would be safe."

Although there is no shortage of retail in the area -- it is, after all within shouting distance of the bustling thoroughfare of South 27th Street, the neighborhood's quiet feel leaves it lacking a amenities that younger residents like Dechambre would appreciate.

"I don't think our neighborhood lacks many things -- with 27th Street nearby we have just about every retail place we need," she says. "I do wish there was a YMCA or WAC close by, or that we had a Starbucks within a five-mile radius; or a few more nice restaurants."


"Any type of trendy shops," Childers agrees, echoing Dechambre's desire for a cafe.

In the meantime, with house prices rising all over town, Dechambre and Childers don't expect values to do anything but rise. But in the meantime, the house, the neighborhood and the price were just right for them.

"We bought here because we wanted to be close to downtown," Dechambre says, "and this is as far out as we had to go to be able to find a nice house that wasn't a fixer-upper. Houses like ours were going for about $250,000 on the East Side and $160,000 in Bay View. We paid well below that. I think it would be a nice place to raise a family, but that's not something we're looking to do anytime soon. Right now we hope to make some money off our investment in a few years. We'll see."

Childers is optimistic.

"I believe the house values will not fall in my neighborhood. There are a lot of brick homes and many people have done updates. I think they will rise with the average."

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 has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.