When someone suggested I put together a list of Milwaukee’s biggest eyesores, I decided to put the question to my Facebook friends, who are a varied group representing a wide swath of Milwaukeeans.
Nearly 50 people posted nearly 100 comments. The answers ranged from the absolutely obvious – you’ll be unsurprised to hear the first comment named Mark di Suvero’s The Calling at the foot of Wisconsin Avenue – to trends (condos) to vacant spaces (Park East corridor).
Here, in its entirely unscientific glory is the list I’ve compiled from those comments. I don’t agree with all the inclusions ("The Calling," for one) and some that I might include are not here (the former Northridge site and the former Roundy’s warehouses in Tosa – both of which are being remade as we speak).
- Mark di Suvero’s "The Calling," or what one poster called, "That ridiculous orange thing that looks like a land mine and blocks the Calatrava!"
- The undeveloped land in the Park East corridor, especially that part between the river and 6th Street. But special mention must also go to the incomplete hotel project on Water and Juneau, which was recently purchased by MSOE and will be finished into student housing.
- Milwaukee’s inner harbor and, especially, the domed tanks that more than one commenter likened to breasts.
- O’Donnell Park got a few mentions, too, and one included mention of the transit center on Michigan Street that is due to come town to make room for the planned 44-story Couture tower.
- The Bronze Fonz earned some votes, too, with one commenter suggesting that, "the Bronze Fonz scares children. Something about the face."
But, really, I saved one for last because it’s bigger than the list. Former OnMilwaukee.com hip-hop columnist J.C. Poppe first alluded to it in his comment, which read, "Every abandoned building is tied for first in my book."
That motion was seconded by another poster: "I agree with J Poppe — green boards of foreclosure."
But OnMilwaukee.com media columnist Steve Kabelowsky cracked it wide open when he wrote, "It is easy to point out the things in hip and trendy spaces in our city, but far too often the biggest eyesore is so forgotten because most of us avoid going into the near-North Side neighborhoods. Foreclosed homes, run-down crumbling vacant storefronts. Graffiti-covered garages surrounded by weed-infested lawns. These were once-thriving working-class neighborhoods. I tear up every time I visit the old neighborhood."
Poverty has allowed the city to sprout sprawling eyesores of urban decay, causing once vibrant neighborhoods to literally crumble and disappear. And that decay of the built landscape cannot be separated from the hunger, segregation and joblessness that afflict the city, and not only in North Side neighborhoods.
Local artist Eddee Daniel stepped up to say, "I second Steve Kabelowsky ... Way worse than petty objections to public art."
And so did another poster, who waggged a finger at City Hall, adding, "I think I am with Eddee on this one. The ‘form givers’ have given good and bad shapes over the years. Yet the invisible architecture of urban governance has produced blinding sights of decadence throughout its landscape."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.