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Building ‘The Valley’ from the ground up

By Keith Barber

In 12 years, about 300 acres of brownfields have been redeveloped, and 33 companies have relocated to the Menomonee Valley in Milwaukee. (Rendering courtesy of Wenk Associates)

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation held its annual meeting Wednesday and conducted a civic awards presentation to a partnership that led redevelopment and transformation efforts in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley.

The partnership is known as Menomonee Valley — From The Ground Up, a collaboration of Menomonee Valley Partners Inc. and Urban Ecology Center, both of Milwaukee. Executive Directors Laura Bray of Menomonee Valley Partners and Ken Leinbach of Urban Ecology Center were honored with the foundation’s Frank Kirkpatrick award, which recognizes those whose efforts lead to physical improvements in the community. Each organization contributed greatly to redevelopment efforts.

Menomonee Valley Partners Inc. is a non-profit organization that has been the catalyst behind the revitalization of the valley. Since 2004, the organization has promoted transformation of the valley, which is now recognized as a national model in economic development and environmental sustainability.

In 12 years, about 300 acres of brownfields have been redeveloped, and 33 companies have relocated to the valley, with many constructing green buildings. An additional seven companies have expanded there, and 45 acres have been turned into natural areas supporting wildlife and improving water quality. In addition, seven miles of trails with native plants have been added.

A third branch of the Urban Ecology Center is being planned. (Rendering courtesy of Uihlein Wilson Architects)

The Urban Ecology Center is a national leader in promoting community-based environmental education, and has recently completed construction of a new educational facility and offices in the valley. The organization offers programs to improve academic performance, and offers a safe place for youth to learn about outdoors and the environment, and to deter crime. The center’s Neighborhood Environmental Education Project has become an award-winning urban education program.

The partnership is now focusing on linking the community to the valley through significant programs and projects.

Work is under way to transform a 24-acre vacant brownfield site into a park and outdoor science classroom, which will include trails, community gardens and native reforestation. Other projects include extending the Hank Aaron State Trail and two bike/pedestrian bridges that connect the valley to the surrounding neighborhoods.

And finally, a third branch of the Urban Ecology Center is being planned. The partnership is a comprehensive effort to weave the Menomonee Valley back into the community and add key assets to job accessibility, science education, public and environmental health and neighborhood vitality and stability.

Keith Barber is a data reporter at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 414-225-1821.

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