This project examines how a business incubator can create a node in the everyday life of residents of the Washington Park and Martin Drive neighborhoods. In addition, this project proposes a self-sustaining system that will create economic benefits, a vibrant public space and promote safety along Vliet Street in order to achieve ownership and improved quality of life.
Kelsey Nuthals, Undergraduate Senior, Architecture
What : A self-sustaining system allows the Washington Park and Martin Drive communities to operate internally. This means that most of the system will be able to function without outside power having control. Currently, many businesses along Vliet Street (between 35th and 40th) are operated by outsiders. In addition, the residences surrounding this stretch of Vliet Street are owned by people who live in different communities. They are buying these properties in Washington Park and Martin Drive because rent is fairly cheap and they are renting out the units as a form of income. This takes the investments away from Washington Park and Martin Drive and applies them to outside neighborhoods. Therefore, this issue has been creating a lack of ownership along Vliet Street since renters do not invest as much financial or emotional support into communities they are simply renting from
How : The proposed series of storefronts utilizes adaptive reuse principles as a way to create small spaces for local entrepreneurs. These spaces would then be rented out, allowing start-up businesses to test their ideas to the Washington Park and Martin Drive communities. Adaptive reuse allows for the interior of a pre-existing structure to be redesigned, while maintaining the overall mass of the building. These principles include preserving building elements such as staircases, structural walls and plumbing.
On October 15th, 2015, the Vliet Street design team from this studio conducted a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) analysis with Matthew Armburst from Washington Park Partners and Community Prosecutor, Chris Ladwig. During this analysis, we discussed how "eyes on the street" can implement safety. Jane Jacobs, a scholar of cities, also discusses "eyes on the street" in her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. This idea and the principles of CPTED were used in this project. As many small local businesses occupy this incubator space they will invest in this property, personalize the building fronts, and become eyes watching the street - thereby promoting safety.
How will this idea contribute to the revitalization of Vliet Street?
Approximately 50% of Vliet Street (between 35th and 40th) is vacant. Half of this stretch of Vliet Street includes empty lots and vacant buildings. Out of the 50% that is occupied, half of the properties are being rented out completely, the owner living elsewhere. This leaves only 25% of Vliet Street owner-occupied, and more often than not, part of the building is still being rented out.
Bus stops are spaces which promote a sense of interaction along Vliet Street. Residents of these neighborhoods use buses as a primary mode of transportation to get to stores and shops around Milwaukee. This observation was a catalyst for this project. A bus stop was relocated to the corner of 39th Street and Vliet Street as a way to form a relationship between business owners and residents in these neighborhoods.
Although renting seems like part of the problem, it can also be seen as a solution. Most people cannot afford an entire property, which is why these properties are often broken up into smaller units, resulting in cheaper cost. By subdividing a portion of a building and creating small spaces, local residents can become local entrepreneurs without the upfront financial burden. Once they become financially stable through the business incubator, they can look into investing in one of the vacant properties along Vliet Street. This self-sustaining process will bring neighborhood ownership, reduce vacancies and create an improved quality of life. This process will give its residents a sense of pride and responsibility in where they live, neighbors will support each other and goods and necessities will be more conveniently available. As residents invest in their community, the community will invest back in them.
City of Milwaukee. “Map Milwaukee.” Official Website of the City of Milwaukee. N.p. Web. N.d.
Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1961. Print.
N. John Habraken, The Control of Complexity, Places 4: 2 (1987), 3-15.