In August, a typically quiet Milwaukee neighborhood erupted in civil unrest that included several businesses being looted and/or set on fire. While the vandalism was the work of a few and not condoned by the community, it is indicative of the state of some neighborhoods in Milwaukee and across the country. Many communities are simmering just below boiling point around racial inequalities, joblessness and crime. In the aftermath of Milwaukee’s Sherman Park unrest, many are asking, “What can I do?”
I can’t tell you what you should do, but I can tell what we are doing at Continuum Architects + Planners, and have been doing for decades.
One of our core beliefs from the firm’s inception in 1996 has been that we can utilize our business of architecture and planning as a means to enhance the City and its neighborhoods. A key tenet of our firm is that our work should elevate both clients and communities. Therefore, we intentionally seek out projects where our involvement makes a difference. In this way, we are consistently part of the solution (and not just retroactively once a location gets hot, for better or worse).
For example, we have designed numerous multi-family residential projects such as:
- Bishop’s Creek Family Housing, 55 apartments at 32nd and Hampton;
- National Lofts, 73 townhomes and apartments at 1st and National
- Prairie Apartments, 24 apartments that provide permanent housing to the City’s homeless.
Currently on the books for us is a combination of new construction and historic rehab of the Blommer Ice Cream Co. that will produce 64 housing units on 15th and North Ave. Another project we are doing is called Welford Sanders Lofts, which is part of a historic rehab of the Nunn Bush factory on 4th Street, just off of N. King Drive. This will create 59 housing units. Continuum’s efforts and expertise, hand-in-hand with our clients, helped secure historic tax credits as well as WHEDA tax credits for both projects. Also on the books in Milwaukee neighborhoods are projects such as the façade renovation and rebranding of the Social Development Commission offices at 17th and North and The Sherman Theatre project in the Sherman Park neighborhood.
What gets me excited about doing these projects is demonstrating that high-concept designs can also be cost-effective and therefore within reach of a cross-section of developers and end-users. Our goal with our housing work in particular is to eliminate the stigma of supportive housing, especially in neighborhoods and highly-developed urban areas. We do this by providing striking designs. Experience has shown us that creating beautiful, thoughtfully planned living spaces engenders pride in the residents and cultivates respect and hope in the community.
We have found that operating on the model of quadruple bottom line—people, planet, profit and purpose—positions us to continually participate in the upward lifting of our City and our fellow residents while going about our business.
Our firm actively seeks partnerships with ACRE graduates and other developers interested in enhancing Milwaukee’s neighborhoods. Our expertise in historic tax credits, historic rehab, WHEDA tax credits, affordable housing, office renovation and our deep commitment to our hometown positions Continuum as the ideal architectural partner for projects in neighborhoods such as Sherman Park. Contact us to explore what’s possible.
We don’t all have the ability to start something new and different in response to the Sherman Park unrest. But what the recent events remind me is that what we all can do is more of what we are already doing and/or consider how we might extend what we are already doing into parts of our City that aren’t currently the trendy hot spots. I am reminded that we each have the power to affect positive change by where we focus our business and how we go about conducting our business. And to not underestimate that power.