Top 10 for 2014

The Gateway to Milwaukee and the organizations that we represent are thankful for all of the volunteers, residents, businesses, political and civic leaders that helped us in pursuing our goal of enhancing the vitality of the airport area this and every year. In no particular order, here are 10 things that happened in 2014, for which we are truly grateful –

1. Alaska Airlines announces its entrance to the Milwaukee market
We were happy to learn in November that Alaska Airlines will begin service at General Mitchell Int’l Airport next summer. Thanks to the hard work of GMIA staff, Alaska Airlines will connect Milwaukee to Seattle, a major West Coast hub. Also in 2014 Southwest Airlines announced new service to San Diego, New Orleans, Ft. Lauderdale, and Cancun while Frontier Airlines added service to Trenton, Orlando, and Ft. Myers and AeroMexico began operating for FunJet and Apple Vacations. Things are looking up!

2. Hospitality Committee completes traveler market analysis
Throughout the year, we brought together owners and GMs of the airport area hotels and conducted an analysis of travelers choosing to stay in our market. With the help of Visit Milwaukee, General Mitchell Int’l Airport, our research vendor, and supported by a grant from the Wisconsin Dept. of Tourism, 200 in person surveys and 400 online surveys were collected. We now know who is staying near the airport and why, which is important knowledge that will be used to encourage more nights stayed in The Gateway and more spending at local businesses.

3. Oak Creek is booming
Grabbing headlines all year was the Drexel Town Square development which will be anchored by a Meijer, Water Street Brewery, condos and a new Oak Creek City Hall. Other large projects that were announced or broke ground in 2014 include Stella & Chewy’s new headquarters, Joy Global’s expansion, and a 172,000 sf industrial building built on spec by Liberty Property Trust. Oak Creek was undoubtedly one of the hottest real estate markets in Wisconsin this year, which we hope will continue for the Aerotropolis community in 2015.

4. Improvements at General Mitchell
Lots of investment in the airport this year that you may have missed including the completion of phase 1 of the new baggage claim, a potential solar farm, 60 new free-to-use mobile device charging stations, a remodeled Miller Brewhouse in the concession mall, newly-remodeled children’s play areas in the terminals, a new in-line baggage screening facility, and a new astronautics exhibit in the Gallery of Flight Museum, and 20 minutes of free WiFi from Boingo.

5. Urban Orchard
Milwaukee’s newest green infrastructure improvement is an urban orchard and permeable pavement parking lot located in the Green Corridor at the corner of S. 6th St and W. Norwich Ave. Supported by a grant from MMSD and with the help of Milwaukee City and County leaders, this project is a best practice demonstration site for storm water management and urban forestry. The lot will also serve the adjacent Garden District Farmers’ Market, which has us looking forward to summer already.

6. Our Safest Year
2014 was a banner year for safety and security in The Gateway to Milwaukee. Measured from Nov. 1, 2013 to Nov. 1, 2014, we saw 678 total incidents in the broader Gateway area which is half of what it was in 2009 (1,353). This includes dramatic declines in locked vehicle entry (71%), property damage (70%), and thefts (36%). During this period our Security Committee has hired officers to patrol the Gateway area every single night, worked with MPD District 6’s Hotel Squad, and improved communication between businesses to address safety issues in real time.

7. New business openings
New commercial development followed employment growth in The Gateway as 2014 saw Starbucks, Tornado Brewing Company, Koi Japanese, Milwaukee Power Equipment, and Wild Bill’s Sports Saloon move in with a Wing Stop planned for E. Layton Ave in 2015.

8. Beautifying E. Layton Ave
What started as an idea is quickly becoming reality. East Layton Avenue runs through the Cities of Milwaukee, St. Francis and Cudahy, is a County Highway, connects 794 to 94, and forms the northern border of the airport. For years, we have heard from local businesses that this important stretch of road needs to be beautified and improved. Thanks to Supervisor Haas, the bumps were shaved off this year and the road will be re-surfaced in 2015. We convened meetings with the many stakeholders on this street and from those meetings we have 3 exciting developments. First, the City of Milwaukee will install rain gardens as part of the County’s road construction next year. Second, the City is piloting an “adopt a boulevard” program to help sponsor landscaping. And third, the Gateway’s landscaping plans were developed for the corridor from Howell to Brust Aves. Things will move quickly over the next few years and we’re excited to get the ball rolling in 2014.

9. Industrial Investment in the Gateway
The dust had barely settled on the announcement that CenterPoint Properties was selling many of their industrial properties in The Gateway when investment in those properties was announced by the new owners. Zilber Property Group purchased 6 industrial properties on S. 2nd St and quickly began improving those buildings while the former Ace Industrial Park was purchased and rebranded as the Mitchell Industrial Park by the new owners. Other new construction includes an industrial property at 200 W. Edgerton and possibly another at 800 W. College, which follows a positive trend in our industrial market since Amazon’s investment in Kenosha County.

10. Transit improvements in Milwaukee
In 2014, Milwaukee wisely lifted its cap on taxicab licenses, which had been set at 320 for the whole City since 1992. This spring, the City held a lottery for 100 new cab licenses which received 1,706 applications. Lifting this cap will improve the amount of taxicabs in Milwaukee and improve the quality of service for riders. Other transit developments this year included the rise of ride sharing services Uber and Lyft, and Milwaukee County announced a new Route 80 express bus service along S. 6th St and Howell Ave. Who knows what the future holds, maybe a street car stop at the airport?