How Turner Hall's new sign represents Milwaukee's rapid growth

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If you have been to Turner Hall Ballroom this summer, you've probably noticed the outside is a bit more inviting.

A new sign now hangs above the front entrance of the historic theater.

Photo via OnMilwaukee/Bobby Tanzilo.

Gold lettering glimmers over a vibrant red background, fitting the theater's vintage feel.

The improvements continue beyond the entrance and into the sidewalk, too, where crews have installed a wooden "parklet." The deck adds additional outdoor seating for Tavern at Turner, the in-house bar and restaurant at the theater.

Photo via OnMilwaukee/Bobby Tanzilo.

Both improvements add a bit of vibrancy to an increasingly active area of Milwaukee. Turner Hall sits kitty-corner to the Deer District and Fiserv Forum -- two essential Milwaukee entertainment venues a stone's throw apart.

In this week's podcast, OnMilwaukee's Bobby Tanzilo and I talk about how a simple sign upgrade can symbolize transformation in a neighborhood. Listen to this week's episode, and be sure to read Bobby's complete story at OnMilwaukee.

Photo via OnMilwaukee/Bobby Tanzilo.
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Marquette University bans electric scooters

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How do you solve a problem like electric scooters? That's the dilemma that Milwaukee is wrestling with as it weighs the considerable benefits of dockless scooters (cheap, convenient transportation) against the considerable negatives (safety concerns, cluttered sidewalks and the general sense of chaos and lawlessness that comes from having hundreds of scooters poured onto cramped streets).

But while the city has sent mixed messages about where it stands on scooters, "pausing" the scooter pilot program only to reverse course less than two weeks later, unleashing an additional 700 scooters on the streets, Marquette University has made its policy on them clear: It wants them off campus immediately.

Today Marquette Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Joel Pogodzinski announced a ban on personal motorized vehicles including electric scooters and bicycles, hoverboards, Segways and mopeds, effective immediately.

"There is increasing evidence on the dangers of operating motorized scooters, and as a police department, it is our duty to promote and protect the safety of our students, faculty, staff and guests," Marquette University Police Department Chief Edith Hudson said, according to WISN.

The university says the fine for riding a scooter on campus will be $86.20.

UPDATE: A Marquette spokesperson has expanded on the specifics of its policy:

"This is not a perimeter ban. MUPD cannot prohibit the lawful use of motorized scooters or similar personal motorized vehicles on public streets. MUPD will, however, enforce all traffic laws related to scooter use.

MUPD will enforce all existing city ordinances related to the use of motorized scooters or similar personal motorized vehicles on city-owned sidewalks. The city ordinance states that a fine for such a violation is $86.20.

Marquette's new policy applies specifically to campus-owned walkways, driveways and green spaces, areas that are designed for pedestrian use only.

MUPD's enforcement of the campus policy will be largely one of education -- first-time violators will be asked to leave campus property."

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Café el Sol blends culture through food

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What started out as The Spot, an afterschool space for students, quickly turned in Milwaukee's United Community Center, a multigenerational agency that carries a magnitude of programs.

JoAnna Bautch, media relations and events coordinator at UCC, says the center is a focal point for the community.

"It's not uncommon to see a family come and drop their child at the childcare center or at one of the schools and then head over the senior center and drop off their parent or in-laws, and then come here to work," said Bautch. 

There's a hidden gem at the center. Located at the lowest level, you're greeted to a restaurant called Café el Sol. The restaurant started off in 1983 as a program to help unemployed youth on food preparation and service. Now it's a gathering scene for everyone.  

"Café el Sol is a Mexican and Purto Rician restaurant," said Bautch. "So all of our cooking staff are Mexican and Purto Rician, who else can provide those kinds of options than those who make those stuff on a regular basis. Café el Sol, not only a restaurant that's completely open to the public but  also really the hub of where our programs receive food."

Let's consider the impact Café el Sol has. The human services department at UCC has roughly 900 clients, some of those individuals are are part of the residential treatment center and the cafe provides meals throughout the day.

"It's nice because they get to experience food from a  real restaurant," said Bautch. "At least we are able to provide them a hot meal every time they sit down at the table." 

Beyond just serving the center, Café el Sol is a restaurant that's opened to the public. Miguel Sanchez, manager at the cafe, says Fridays are a special day for two reasons.  

"One of the things that we are really famous for is our fish fry," said Sanchez. "If you never had it, I highly recommend it and also with your fish fry you get the live entertainment on Fridays. We hire bands that happen to be Peruvian, Cuban, Purto Rician. It's a little bit of everything, I would say and it's really nice." 

Food sometimes acts as the heart and soul for bringing people together. I think about growing up and learning about my own heritage while helping my grandmother make dinner or sharing special moments over a meal with loved ones. Café el Sol brilliantly highlights both Mexican and Purto Rician cuisines, celebrates the richness of both countries and contributes value to the center and the public. 

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Milwaukee's Youth Climate Action Team draws local awareness

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Kiva Carman-Frank and Ayanna Lee are both part of the Youth Climate Action Team, an entirely youth-run organization here in Wisconsin. YCAT started when a number of Madison high school students gathered to discuss the possibilities of a school strike to demand climate justice in the state of Wisconsin. On March 15, they drew a crowd of roughly two thousand amplifying their voices and their mission.

The movement spread like rapid-fire throughout the state and it is currently one of the largest youth-led climate coalition in Wisconsin. However, Carman-Frank says that the Milwaukee chapter is currently aligning its focus on local issues. 

"We're looking at environmental racism and how that impacts our community," said Carman-Frank. "We're looking at how extreme weather impacts our already underfunded infrastructure. We're talking about water pollution through the violation of indigenous treaty rights or lead poisoning. So we  have different needs in our community specifically than even the whole state." 

Historically, the youth have always played a role in activism but sometimes have been dismissed because of their age. Lee says that now more than ever, youth are at the frontlines of climate justice because their generation sees the most impact. 

"So I live in Milwaukee, in the city, so I definitely see the effects environmental issues daily," Lee said. "I mean we didn't go to school for an entire week because it was too cold and our communities are super polluted because the highways go through all of them and we're the least to contribute to those things but the most likely to be impacted by them, daily."

Carman-Frank says one of their goals is for marginalized communities to be one of the focal voices of the movement but to also be given resources. 

"It's the black neighborhoods and the Latinx neighborhoods and the neighborhoods of the highest concentrations of marginalized people that are breathing in the poison of the highway and we have the exact same images for lead poisoning and the prevalence of lead pipes in Milwaukee," said Carman-Frank. 

YCAT contributes to the conversation of climate justice as an ethical and political issue by demonstrating weekly strikes yet that's not the only method of dialogue. 

"It's not always a protest, it's not always a demonstration," said Carman-Frank. "It's direct service, it's art, it's talking about things, it's speaking and writing and bringing the issues to your community. It's really about just engaging at whatever level feels accessible to you at that point and realizing what is possible for us." 

YCAT will be participating in a global climate strike on Sept 20, on that day there will be a school and general strike to end the age of fossil fuels. You can find more information and upcoming events on their website.

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Deeply personal exhibit opens at Marquette's Haggerty Museum

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If cities are measured by the quality of their museums, Milwaukee can certainly compete. Of course there are the big ones -- the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Milwaukee Art Museum two of the most notable -- but we also have several smaller ones scattered around.

Think of them as "indie" museums. 

Director and chief curator Susan Longhenry (right) with Lynne Shumow, curator for academic engagement at the Haggerty Museum of Art. And yes, that's a real Keith Haring they're standing in front of.

"We have some very large museums in MIlwaukee. But we have some really smaller, very interesting, very focused museums in Milwaukee. And we see ourselves as one of those," says Susan Longhenry. She's the director and chief curator at the Haggerty Museum of Art on the Marquette University campus.

"We believe that art is not separate from life. So we really try to engage you in that conversation while you're here, in a very personal way," Longhenry said.

The Haggerty Museum has a deep collection, more than 6,000 objects, including an original Salvador Dali painting and a Keith Haring mural. Plus there's an exhibition space for rotating shows.

[ Related: Five Milwaukee museums off the beaten path ]

On Aug. 16, the museum welcomes two new shows: "Ben Shahn: For The Sake of a Single Verse" and "The Ariel Poems." Lynne Shumow, curator for academic engagement, showed me around the Ben Shahn exhibit ahead of its opening.

It's a poignant portfolio of lithographs by the Jewish Lithuanian artist Ben Shahn. 

Three of Shahn's works on display at Haggerty. Photos via the Haggerty Museum.

The prints of his sketches feature mostly human subjects and depicted rather minimally, with simple lines and subtle colors. Each piece is paired with a passage from poet Rainer Maria Rilke's 1910 novel. The sketch and the quote are displayed side by side.

Each of the 24 plates offer something deeply personal about the human condition, perhaps the most personal of Shahn's career.

"When it's not on the wall, it looks like a rather large book," Shumow said. "There's a passage that talks about 'to be a fully realized human, one must see many cities. One must be beside the dying.' Things like that. So it takes you through many human emotions."

"In Rooms Withdrawn and Quiet." Photo via Harvardartmuseums.org.

The Shahn exhibit opens alongside another featured exhibition, "The Ariel Poems." Both run Aug. 16 - Dec. 15.

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So, the MSO moved a giant wall 35 feet yesterday

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This week on Urban Spelunking, we're checking in on a story we've been following for years -- the transformation of the Warner/Grand Theater as it becomes the new home of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

The 1930 building is designated as historic. Originally designed as a movie house, the theater has been undergoing constant renovation to make it suitable for an orchestra.

Photo by Jonathan Kirn, courtesy of Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

One of the biggest projects overall was to move the back wall of the theater, which crews completed successfully Tuesday. Because of its historic nature, the National Parks Service required the MSO to move the wall intact, in one giant piece, rather than taking it apart.

Sliding along a track, workers from Expert House Movers of MD, Inc. inched the wall approximately 35 feet toward 2nd Street. The whole maneuver took several hours.

Photo by Jonathan Kirn, courtesy of Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Listen to this week's podcast for much more about the move, including a detailed vision and timeline for project.

Read Bobby Tanzilo's complete story at OnMilwaukee, and subscribe to all of 88Nine's podcasts here.

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R.I.P. Jose Amado Ortiz, barber and human extraordinaire

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Bay View has lost one of its most beloved business owners. Joseph Amado Ortiz, better known to most of the neighborhood as Jose, the namesake behind the shop Jose's Barber Extraordinaire, died on Aug. 12, according to his obituary. He was 88 years old.

Joseph Amado Ortiz | via Facebook

In a 2010 profile, Jose told OnMilwaukee that he once owned five barber shops Downtown as well as a beauty shop before he settled into his Kinnickinnic Avenue storefront.

Specializing in old-school barber services like hot towels and straight-razor shaves, he turned Jose's Barber Extraordinaire into more than just a barber shop. It became a community, and a bridge between the neighborhood's past and present. Jose's regulars, many of which came to him for decades, mingled with younger clients, including those cut by his sons Nick and Chris.

The shop remains a respite for the hundreds of regulars who get their hair cut there each month, a haven from the stresses of daily life that await beyond the barber's chair. It's no wonder why Jose so often likened his treatment to therapy ("hairapy," as his iconic blue VW labeled it).

"A force of nature who loved every little bit of life, Jose the Barber/Philosopher/Father/Grandpa Extraordinaire made an impact on every person he came into contact with," his obituary reads. "Loved by all and respected by everyone, it can be truly said that he made this world a better place. Every day was a beautiful adventure in this amazing man's life, and the happiness he brought to so many will stand as a testament to the way life should be lived. He will be missed by everyone."

Jose's funeral will be Saturday, Aug. 17 from 4-6 p.m. at Niemann / Suminski Lifestory Funeral Homes, 2486 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. In lieu of Flowers, donations can be made to the Honor Flight Network at honorflight.org or mailed to 175 S. Tuttle Rd, Springfield, Ohio 45505.

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RampUpMKE looks to transform Bradford Beach (and Milwaukee) for those with disabilities

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For years, Bradford Beach has been one of Milwaukee's most well-known summer hot spots. With food, drinks, recreational activities and a fantastic atmosphere, thousands flock to Lincoln Memorial Drive during summer to experience the cool lake breeze and enjoy time with friends and family. Despite this, there is a demographic which is largely unable to enjoy the sand and sun: individuals with physical disabilities.

In 2015 however, Wauwatosa based non-profit organization The Ability Center stepped in to correct this overlooked problem by launching their RampUpMKE initiative. The first step in the program was making Bradford Beach temporarily accessible through innovative beach wheelchairs and walkways which led to the water. Since then, RampUp similarly helped to make Veteran's Park, Red Arrow Park and Wilson Ice Arena more accessible and are now returning to Bradford Beach to improve on what started all of this by creating three permanent ramps and bringing beach wheelchair rentals to the coast.

As simple a concept as ramps and beach wheelchairs are, the implementation of these on beaches is largely unheard of across the country and founder of The Ability Center, Damian Buchman, believes that they are leading the way in improving accessibility. This is due in large part to Buchman's philosophy regarding this topic. Whereas ADA (American Disability Association) compliance is often seen as an obligation which results in those with wheelchairs being able to enter and exit areas, Buchman believes that individuals with disabilities are still left feeling like outsiders due to society often creating these options solely for them.

Using the planned Bradford Beach ramps for example, Buchman explains that the simple ability of the ramps to allow shoulder-to-shoulder movement helps to make those with disabilities feel welcome and use them simultaneously with abled-bodied people. In other words, the ramps don't hinder the experience of those without disabilities and help reinforce the idea that accessible options can be used by everyone.

This change in public perception is actually why RampUp's efforts so far have been focused on public spaces. Buchman believes that by showcasing a seamless integration between those with disabilities and abled bodied people through experiences, a ripple effect will occur and Milwaukee as a whole will begin to think about inclusivity everywhere they go; a change which they hope will echo outside of Milwaukee County.

The beach wheelchairs. Image courtesy of The Ability Center

While in the end, The Ability Center's goal is for everything to be universally inclusive, they realize this isn't realistic and instead are aiming to improve what is already out there before looking to create a universal park and an inclusive baseball field which follow the same principles as the Bradford Beach project. Ultimately, they plan to create their namesake: The Ability Center facility; a fitness, athletic, and recreation facility which would be welcoming to both those with disabilities and abled bodied individuals alike.

Virtual walkthrough of The Ability Center facility. Video courtesy of The Ability Center

Currently, The Ability Center is looking to raise $100,000 to implement their plans for Bradford Beach and you can contribute through their GoFundMe page here.

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Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun are backing the Grand Avenue redevelopment

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The Avenue has two high-profile new investors, the development announced today. Brewers MVPs Ryan Braun and Christian Yelich have both backed the new food hall and office space in the former Shops of Grand Avenue.

The developers did not disclose how much the two Brewers have invested in the project, but said they are among about a dozen partners in the project. In statements, the players said their investment reflects their support of the city. "I consider Milwaukee my second home," Braun said. "This investment is not only good business, but it's an opportunity to play a role in the transformation of this part of Milwaukee that will attract more people to the city and help it thrive."

Photo courtesy The Avenue

Both players are from California, and in his statement Yelich referenced California Strong, his charity initiative with Braun to aid victims of shootings and wildfire victims in their native state. "Seeing how California Strong had such a positive community impact on our hometowns reinforced the importance of supporting the cities that support us," he said. "I've quickly grown to love Milwaukee in my time here and want to help show others its greatness and make its neighborhoods as successful as possible."

The Avenue will feature a food hall called the 3rd Street Market, which will include about 20 local vendors, as well as offices. Those offices could be open by the end of this year, and the food hall is expected to open next spring.  

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The reimagined Mitchell Park Domes could include a restaurant, pavilion and workforce development

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In recent months, there has been a lot of debate about what to do about the Mitchell Park Domes, which is in serious need of renovation. Some ideas have included tearing it down and combining it with the new public museum.

A Milwaukee County Task force will vote on a new $66 million plan that would re-envision what the domes could be this evening.

What is inside this plan and what could it mean for the future of the Mitchell Park Domes?

In a plan titled "A New Urban Botanical Park and Conservatory: Re-envisioning Mitchell Park and its Domes for the Next 50 years," it layouts a comprehensive redevelopment of not only the domes but the entire park surrounding Milwaukee's iconic landmark.

Here are some of the highlights of the 159-page plan:

  • Freshly programmed and animated Domes, bringing the world of plants, their ecosystems, and cultures to Milwaukee all featuring changing exhibits and programs.
  • New welcome center, retail, education and research hub.
  • Farm-to-table restaurant, new events pavilion, food trucks, outdoor and indoor foodservice and family picnic spaces.
  • More pathways and access. Park-wide lighting. Improved amphitheater.
  • Clean and fresh pond, stream circulation, reflecting pool, water stewardship best practice
  • Outdoor and indoor garden and learning: health, urban agriculture, hands-on and apprenticeship programs, certification, workforce development.
  • An economic engine for the Clarke Square neighborhood, sustainable economic model. Supporting 300 quality jobs and a hub for workforce development.

The plan includes collaborating with other Milwaukee institutions. For example, in partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin's Office for Community Engagement, the park will house a Center for Urban Ag and Health, which would bring world-class research and backyard gardens.

The plan also incorporates a wide variety of food and culinary programming like food trucks, a restaurant and a culinary arts training program.

Conceptual image of outdoor dining veranda, restaurant drop off and farm-to-table garden area

Additional park features will include a wedding garden with seating up to 300, a boathouse pavilion, children's garden that will offer hands-on activities, and an upgraded amphitheater with terrace seating for 1500 that will include a stage for music, theater, and dance.

The greenhouse will offer programming for medical and horticulture research, youth summer camps and cooking classes.

The cost for to make this happen is $66 million and it is broken up into three parts -- $13.5 million for a private-sector campaign, $13.5 million from Milwaukee County and $39 million from tax credits and Opportunity Zone Investment.

You can read the full plan over at the Milwaukee County website. The county task force meets tonight (Aug 13) at 5:30 p.m. at Journey House. If it is approved, recommendations would go to the County Board. Here is the full agenda for the meeting.

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