Every city should have a revitalizing non-profit like this one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has this to say about Layton Boulevard West Neighbors (LBWN), a non-profit focused on revitalizing three south side neighborhoods of the city: “This is an organization I would love to clone to have not only throughout the city, but throughout this region and the state. In terms of a community organization that connects with residents, that brings businesses together, that brings other organizations together, I think you’re without parallel. That’s how strong of an organization this is.

LBWN is redeveloping the two-story building at 3514 W. National Ave. in Milwaukee.  They will convert the first floor of the empty building into a new restaurant and develop an apartment on the upper story.

When the city acquired the building in 2014 through property tax foreclosure, the mayor acknowledged that plenty of people within the city thought it was likely to be demolished. And if you look only at the budget for the project versus the expected assessed value they were probably right. But that would miss the overarching goal of how LBWN and other stakeholders are working literally building by building to revitalize the Silver City neighborhood.

LBWN’s mission is to build strong and healthy neighborhoods in the City of Milwaukee by stabilizing and revitalizing the Silver City, Burnham Park and Layton Park communities. These south side neighborhoods are some of Milwaukee’s most diverse and economically vibrant.

Since 1995, LBWN has maintained strong roots with the neighbors while evolving into one of the preeminent community development organizations in the City of Milwaukee. Working side-by-side with residents and stakeholders, LBWN has achieved the following outcomes:

  • $40 million in leveraged neighborhood investment resulting in renovated homes, new businesses and public space improvements;
  • $7.2 million invested in improvements to 1,000+ homes since 1995;
  • $6.2 million invested in sales of 71 homes since 2006;
  • 31 new businesses and 116 new jobs created since 2005;
  • 8,000 neighbors have participated in 200+ community projects and events.

In 1995, the School Sisters of St. Francis (SSSF) founded LBWN to serve as the neighborhood organization for the community surrounding their international motherhouse. At the time, the neighborhood was experiencing transition that negatively impacted community safety, property values, and neighborhood confidence. In response to this need, the SSSF foundresses began organizing ice cream socials to bring neighbors together to get to know one another. This effort was eventually formalized as Layton Boulevard West Neighbors.

To achieve the goal of stabilizing and revitalizing the Layton Boulevard West neighborhoods, LBWN empowers neighbors, business owners and other stakeholders to invest their time, energy or money in our community’s continued growth. This investment takes on many forms including buying a home, opening a business, or visiting any of our neighborhood’s wonderful attractions.

LBWN developed this asset-based approach in 2006 as a founding member of the Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative, a collaboration of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, City of Milwaukee, and other middle-market neighborhoods throughout the city.

In 2011, LBWN took the next step forward in its neighborhood development efforts when it partnered with the Zilber Family Foundation to create a Quality of Life Plan. The Plan represents the shared vision of the hundreds of neighbors who participated in its creation and serves as the roadmap for LBWN’s continued revitalization strategies. LBWN serves as the lead convening agency for the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative and collaborates with neighbors and numerous partners to attract additional investments and improve the quality of life in Silver City, Burnham Park, and Layton Park.

They have been assisted on the design of this project by Community Design Solutions (CDS), a funded design center in the School of Architecture & Urban Planning (SARUP) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that assists communities, agencies, civic groups, and campuses throughout Wisconsin. CDS provides preliminary design and planning services to underserved communities and agencies.

Students from SARUP work with the Director, Carolyn Esswein, clients and faculty to develop concepts that promote positive change, stimulate funding opportunities, and serve as a catalyst for continued investment for community revitalization.

Rendering courtesy of Community Design Solutions.

See article by Jeramey Jannene in Urban Milwaukee.

See LBWN website.

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