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Washington Park's courts are getting some love.
Washington Park's courts are getting some love. (Photo:

Washington Park courts get a "reFRESH"

This story has been updated to include event photos and a one-on-one interview with Kenny Smith and Jeff Sherman. 

Basketball analyst, star of "Meet the Smiths" and former NBA player, Kenny "The Jet" Smith, will be in Milwaukee on Thursday to help make a donation to the Milwaukee Urban League Young Professionals.

The donation is on behalf of Coors Light's reFRESH community basketball court initiative that will help breath new life into the courts at Washington Park, 1859 N. 40th St. 

Repaving, rebuilding and even just putting up new nets at courts helps energize playgrounds and encourage more basketball.  I love this program, and truly hope it can be extend to multiple courts in and around Milwaukee.  Too many basketball courts and hoops are neglected and in disrepair. 

Thursday's donation is a part of Coors Light's national Full Court reFRESH program, now in its second year.

How can you help?  For every tweet using the hashtags #fullcourtreFRESH and #over21, Coors Light will make a donation towards the refurbishment of community basketball courts in participating cities across the country.  

The blue represents local pictures taken, while red are pictures taken by tourists; yellow may be either.
The blue represents local pictures taken, while red are pictures taken by tourists; yellow may be either. (Photo: Eric Fischer, @enf / @HundenPartners )

The difference between visitor and local photos in Downtown Milwaukee

One of the best slides from yesterday’s Public Policy Forum luncheon showed a Flirk map of Downtown Milwaukee.  It contrasted, by color, where locals took and shared photos versus photo shares from visitors.  And, the contrast was striking.

Visitors, who many mainly stay near the Wisconsin Center, primarily snapped and shared along Wisconsin Avenue and at the Lakefront, near the Milwaukee Art Museum.  While locals shared photos from all around Downtown Milwaukee. 

This map really shows how we need to better connect our Downtown, make it easier for people to get around to all areas and create more dense areas within Downtown. 

I’ve shared the map above and here’s exactly what the Hunden report says:

The following figure is a map of the Downtown area that displays where tourist photos have been geotagged within the city. This map will be an indication of tourist travel corridors and patterns. The blue represents local pictures taken, while red are pictures taken by tourists; yellow may be either.

The primary areas of activity are along the riverfront down into the Historic Third Ward. Also, a major tourist pathway is along Wisconsin Avenue and terminates at the lakefront where the Milwaukee Art Museum is located. The area along Brady Street to the north is also an area of activity, with most being local.

Notice that most out of town visitors stick to where the city infrastructure of the city appears to be the densest, or in other words, where there are few (if any) gaps in the urban fabric. Open spaces between buildings and large swaths of surface parking tend to minimize pedestrians and activity. On the above map, Wisconsin Avenue is the only east west link that is obvious (to visitors) in the center of the built up Downtown area so visitors stick to that street. Wells and State Streets have comparatively no appeal to pedestrians, due to a number of open spaces. With a new streetcar line, this pattern of visitor tracking will likely adjust to include…

Downtown Milwaukee is growing.
Downtown Milwaukee is growing.

New report says Downtown needs more connectivity

Density. Discovery. Diversity. These three "Ds" make downtowns great.  And, when they work together and are well connected downtowns truly flourish.

I’ve lived and/or worked in greater Downtown Milwaukee for more than 25 years, and in the last 15 or so it’s really seen a massive transition. Yet, I’ve always lamented the fact that it’s way too spread out.  Stuff’s not well connected and unless you spend large amounts of time here (like many of us do, including the 80,000-plus who work here) it’s hard to easily walk from here to there.  Sure, I can get to where I need to fairly easily but it should be more intuitive for visitors.  

A new report by Hunden Strategic Partners in Chicago was presented yesterday at a Public Policy Forum luncheon at the Intercontinental Milwaukee.  The report, commissioned by the Greater Milwaukee Committee and Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District No. 21, says pretty much what I just mentioned noting "due to the large physical area taken up by Downtown, Milwaukee's nodes of dining and nightlife activity are fairly spread out and there is no easy way to experience them all without using a car."

Yep, that’s an issue.

It’s not just what we have and don’t have. It’s that many of the great amenities we have in Downtown are not connected in the right way. 

Overall, the Hunden Report makes some obvious but not apparent to all observations.  Here are some of the other findings taken directly from the report:

  • Milwaukee’s Downtown has fewer dining options, by a large margin, than the peer cities in the report.  And, "the lack of ‘easy’ walkable dining options before and after games, concerts and conventions may contribute to the feeling that there is not as much happening Downtown."  
  • While Milwaukee meets the average number of the peer set for high end restaurants, Downtown Milwaukee features far fewer restaurants at every other level of price compared to its peers.
  • The development of a new ar…
Holler House is featured in Bon Appetit.  Photo: Dori/Wikimedia Commons
Holler House is featured in Bon Appetit. Photo: Dori/Wikimedia Commons

Which national publication called Milwaukee "the greatest bar town in America?"

The May edition of Bon Appetit, a food lifestyle publication that offers "life through the lens of food," has a feature story by Julia Kramer titled "Milwaukee: The Greatest Bar Town in America."  Of course, we agree with this assessment.

Several area institutions, brands and even local bar games are featured in the story.  

Click here to see which places made this latest national publication to spotlight MKE.