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A June charette produced a plan for senior housing, and community, parking and green space shared with a neighboring church for Fifth Street School.
A June charette produced a plan for senior housing, and community, parking and green space shared with a neighboring church for Fifth Street School.

5th Street School plan shows charettes can spur quick progress

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.



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