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Redevelopment in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley: What Worked and Why?

The revitalization of Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley as an industrial, recreational, and entertainment district has been lauded both locally and nationally as a successful and sustainable urban redevelopment project. In this report, the Public Policy Forum explores how the Valley’s major improvements over the last 15 years were achieved, including an examination of the public policies, financial resources, and partnerships that were crucial to the redevelopment effort.

The purpose of this research effort is not to evaluate the success of Valley redevelopment. Indeed, we start with the premise that Valley redevelopment has been successful. Our objective, instead, is to identify and analyze the ingredients of success so that consideration can be given to replicating them elsewhere. Through analysis of Valley data and documents, and through an extensive series of interviews with public and private sector leaders, we are able to cite the major barriers that inhibited Valley redevelopment, and examine the policies, activities, and strategies that helped to overcome those barriers and facilitate private sector investments.

The report begins with a brief overview of the economic, environmental, and community improvements that have occurred in the Menomonee Valley since the late 1990s. We then explore the work that brought about those outcomes by examining five “success factors” deemed critical to the Valley’s revitalization, and by presenting four major Valley projects as case studies.

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