A Business District with an Airport in the Center

General Mitchell International Airport is unique among American airports in that it forms the border of 5 separate municipalities.  For the communities of Oak Creek, South Milwaukee, Cudahy, St. Francis, and Milwaukee, WI, the airport is on the periphery of their City borders – literally the edge of town.  Because of this, the edge around the airport has never received much attention nor has there ever been an effort to coordinate development across municipal borders.  Aerotropolis Milwaukee has taken on this task and is now working with these 5 communities and other key stakeholders to build a shared vision for development.

The goal of this planning effort is to identify districts within 1 mile of the airport that have the potential to create higher economic value if a little coordination and incentive is applied.  The planning effort is very much in its early stages, but right away a few existing business clusters have been identified as potential areas for future investment.

One such cluster is the hospitality district that exists around S. 13th St and W. College Ave in the Cities of Oak Creek and Milwaukee.  This cluster of travel accommodation is significant as having one of the highest densities of hotel rooms per acre in all of Southeastern Wisconsin and includes such hotel brands as the Crowne Plaza, Ramada, Holiday Inn, Candlewood Suites, Fairfield Inn and Days Inn.  The cluster is in a good position for growth in that it is a short drive from the airport terminal and is immediately adjacent to I-94, placing it only 9 miles and 5 minutes from Downtown Milwaukee.  Additionally, many extended stay hotels have been built in this area indicating that the value of room rates and location appeals to business travelers and corporate accounts.

Given these benefits of the S. 13th and College area, one might expect that the cluster is a bustling hub geared towards a high quality travel experience.  Strictly speaking, this is not the case as few retail and dining options exist and the infrastructure is oriented to automobiles rather than pedestrians.  It can also be difficult for travelers to find their way around if they have no knowledge of the area.  Due to years of unplanned development at the edge of both the Cities of Oak Creek and Milwaukee, this area is operating below its potential and in turn fails to capitalize on certain economic opportunities.  In the case of S. 13th and College, both communities are working towards a shared goal and there are other examples of this around the airport that we will write about over the next few weeks.

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