The site as it appears right now.
The site as it appears right now. (Photo: Department of City Development)

What's your vision for 4th and Wisconsin?

When I moved to Milwaukee in 1983, that big vacant lot on Wisconsin Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets – now surface parking, though also recently used for events like the NEWaukee Night Market – was an "activated" space, even if it wasn't quite performing up to its potential.

There was a Big Boy, there was a hotel or two, a wig shop, a former nightclub, the old YMCA and a few other things.

The entire block was constructed with vintage building stock; structures that I bet we wish we still had, especially in light of the fact that since they all came down, the site's been basically dead.

Dead, especially when it's a potential connector between The Shops of Grand Avenue, Boston Store, the Hilton City Center and the Wisconsin Center convention halls. That empty lot is a drag on Milwaukee's downtown.

Today, the city began accepting requests for proposals for developments on the site:

The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee is excited to present this Request for Proposals for an unprecedented transit-oriented development opportunity in the City of Milwaukee and one of the most unique transit-oriented development opportunities in the Midwest.  The approximately 2-acre parcel at 4th/Wisconsin will be located on both the proposed Milwaukee Streetcar route and Bus Rapid Transit line. This high visibility and high traffic site is situated directly across the street from Wisconsin's main convention center, blocks from the Marquette University campus and centrally-located among significant redevelopment efforts in thriving downtown Milwaukee. 

Downtown Milwaukee is undergoing an extraordinary renaissance with nearly $3 billion in projects completed since 2005, $1 billion under construction and another $1.3 billion in advanced planning stages. In the greater downtown area, over 9,500 housing units have been added since 2004 and over 1,300 hotel rooms have been added since 2008. As a result of this extraordinary investment and substantial growth, downt…

Tech hosts an open house on Tuesday, Oct. 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. Go and see for yourself.
Tech hosts an open house on Tuesday, Oct. 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. Go and see for yourself.

MPS' Bradley Tech opens doors to show positive developments

While it’s true that Bradley Tech High School, 700 S. 4th St., in Walker’s Point has been in the news for the wrong reasons in recent years, there have also been many positive developments there, only some of which have made headlines (very, very small headlines, typically, because, sadly, school success doesn’t sell), including a team of students that built motorcycles last spring, life mentoring programs with area professionals, an aquaponics program and more.

Much of the good news has followed the district’s partnership with MATC, UWM and MSOE to give the school a boost, with new recruitment strategies, improved links with local higher education programs, more classes that provide college credits, better ties to the community and more.

My friend Cindy Bettine is a music teacher at the school now and sent me this message recently:

"I am at Bradley Tech full-time and the energy has changed and become much more positive this year. Teachers are feeling like Tech is back! We have partnerships with MATC and MSOE, along with many other tech-related organizations.

Our students are now wearing uniforms which are purple polos and khaki pants. We (want) to encourage people to come out and see our program during our open house."

The event, which is free and open to all, takes place Tuesday, Oct. 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. There, you’ll be able to tour shops and classrooms for carpentry, graphic arts, mobile app and website design, welding, mechanical drafting and more.

There will be student awards presented by alumni and Tech business advisers from the community. You’ll also be able to hear more about career pathways from partners at UWM and MATC.

You can believe the selective news reports or you can go inside and see for yourself.

If you’re going, please take a moment to RSVP to Tech and Trade Liaison Scott Sommer at But if you forget, I bet they’ll still be happy to see you on Tuesday.

The competition and the judges.
The competition and the judges.

Cute overload: Rogers St. Academy kids judge mascots' ballet auditions

Yesterday morning, a group of kindergarteners from Milwaukee Public Schools' Rogers Street Academy visited BMO Harris Bank, 770 N. Water St., to judge auditions by local sports mascots for roles in the upcoming production of Milwaukee Ballet's "The Nutcracker."

The judging, photos of which you can see below in an example of cuteness overload, coincided with the Milwaukee Ballet's three-day ticket sale for "The Nutcracker." During this promotion, tickets are buy one, get one at half price.

Rogers Street Academy, 2430 W. Rogers St., offers mono- and bilingual curricula to about 700 students from K4 through eighth grade on Milwaukee's South Side.

The auditions were led by Milwaukee Ballet Artistic Director Michael Pink, with a little help from Jud Snyder (pictured with the kids below), who is president of BMO Harris Equipment Finance Company and also president of the Milwaukee Ballet board.

The competitors in this surely tight race were the Brewers' costumed Hank, the Bucks' Bango and Roscoe, representing the Milwaukee Admirals, and BMO Harris' own Hubert.

For their audition, the mascots had to perform a brief bit of Tchaikovsky’s "Russian Dance (Trepak)" from "The Nutcracker."

After picking their favorite – Bango was the winner and will have a walk-in role in "The Nutcracker" this year with the Ballet – the kids received a gift as a token of appreciation for their work.

But judging by the photos, the real stars were the adorable tots from Rogers Street Academy:

Public Enemy on stage at Red Dot Tosa on Friday night.
Public Enemy on stage at Red Dot Tosa on Friday night.

Public Enemy and Run-DMC in Tosa ... wait, what?

This past weekend, Tosa resident Anthony Lampasona staged a huge party at Red Dot on North Avenue in East Tosa with Public Enemy, Run-DMC, Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Rakim, EPMD and others.

Some nights you're hanging out watching your kids do gymnastics and packing for a weekend camping trip, and 20 minutes later, you're rocking to Run-DMC at a tiny venue a few blocks from home.

That's what happened to me Friday night when I saw fellow drummer Mikal Phillips post a Facebook Live of Run-DMC on stage at Red Dot. A few minutes later, I was on the sidewalk enjoying the music and occasionally catching a glimpse of the performers through the big open windows.

Phillips spotted me on the sidewalk and we chatted. And then I ran into more friends. And then more friends saw my posts on social media about it and they showed up. And then another longtime friend – a co-owner of Red Dot – brought me a pass to get inside. Suddenly it felt as much like my party as Lampasona's.

The event was a follow-up to a similar one Lampasona – who is the president and COO of Landmark Healthcare Facilities – staged at Red Dot with Public Enemy last year.

Held on the same weekend as Tosa Fest was taking place down in the Village, Lampasona's party felt like the real Tosa fest. And though it was packed, there seemed to be nothing but good vibes. Folks on the sidewalk took turns standing on chairs to see the action inside, with nary a thrown elbow.

Inside, the party was packed, but folks ran to open the door for people carrying drinks and there was nearly as much high-fiving as there was selfie-snapping. And by the time Public Enemy was into its surprisingly long set, doormen weren't even checking for passes anymore.

It was a really good time. I didn't make it over on Saturday to see Rakim, who is perhaps my favorite hip-hop MC ever – there was that camping trip, remember?

Thanks to Lampasona for sharing the love with his neighborhood.

Read Piet Levy's story about it here.

Here are some im…