I sat down for a chat with Elizabeth Brodek, the Business Improvement District Director for the North Avenue area to see what her job all entails and how it impacts Milwaukee!
Why the North Avenue BID director?
I had a bunch of good memories of the east side from when I used to live here. I happened to be looking for a job in the area, and this was open. I get to do the work I love in a neighborhood I love. It has a lot of potential, the area is right at the cusp, which is a rarely found sweet spot to serve as a BID director. It was a “duh.”
What do you see as your role as BID director?
As the only employee of the BID, I am the hub of information. I contract out and work with a lot of volunteers, and I coordinate that with all the neighborhood businesses as a kind of orchestra conductor to make sure they all work in sync with each other.
Aside from that bigger picture stuff, day to day management duties include dealing with overflowing trashcans, moving planters, paying the bills, finding sponsorships, creating and developing new programs for the neighborhood.
What is the most exciting thing happening in your BID right now?
As a customer: New businesses opening and storefronts becoming occupied and vibrant.
Internally: The direction of the BID. Everyone wants to see the organization and the area succeed. We are undertaking a community-wide strategic planning to better understand what our area needs and what residents and customers want to see. The experience of the area is being redefined with all of the new businesses moving in, growing up with us.
What is the biggest challenge that your BID/Milwaukee is facing right now?
The biggest challenge for the BID right now is stabilizing the revenues it takes in, which is based on the assessments of the properties in the BID. We are streamlining accounting and building the organization and sponsorships, taking care to only put on events if they will either turn a profit or break even. Additionally, a significant challenge for us is how to include the businesses west of Oakland to the river. Anytime you introduce a physical barrier and have some vacant buildings, there is less foot traffic and properties can sort of feel separated from the rest of the neighborhood.
The biggest challenges for Milwaukee are diversity, inclusion, and acceptance. It is not a secret that Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the US, which is evident here on the whole east side. One of our quarterly workshops next year will focus on diversity and inclusion to make sure we are cognizant of this and welcoming to everyone.
Where do you see Milwaukee/the BID 10 years from now?
What I want to see is the BID staying very local, personal, and eclectic. I don’t want the area to get too corporate or “proper.” I think this area has the potential to develop into something of similar caliber to the Third Ward, but I want it to maintain its neighborhood, livable area feel. I would also like to see more pedestrian or “micro-mobility” infrastructure.
As water becomes the most valuable natural resource, I think Milwaukee will see a lot of population growth with people flocking in from other cities. I hope we invest in our local artists and entrepreneurs as that happens to keep this place so amazing.
What is your favorite place in Milwaukee to unwind?
I love being with people I know around the neighborhood. Some favorites include Hi Hat, Juneau Park, the lakefront, Bradford Beach, Stubby’s (outstanding breakfast BLT!), Koppa’s Deli, and Sip & Purr. It comes down to the people that work there.
What is something you would like to see in Milwaukee/the BID that we don’t have?
Milwaukee has so many pockets of stuff that I am still learning about, so it is hard to tell. I have this obsession with this thing that a group of friends in Tallahassee, Florida called the Awesome Fund, where a group of friends got together and put $100 a month into a fund and solicited requests from the community for anything awesome that people wanted to see. One of the first projects they did was a 10-person hammock in a park, because why the hell not? I want to see stuff like that which sets us apart and we don’t see anywhere else. I love a lot of stuff we have going, but it is also stuff you see going in other communities as well, so I want to see a local spin on that a little bit more. I would also like to see from the top down a citizen advisory commission or something like that to help ease the burden of the red tape and the costs associated with doing something like that. People can be so easily dissuaded from making an impact where there is too high an obstacle. I don’t want to see new events being precluded from taking off because of too high burdens and costs.
As for the BID, I would like to see more office users. Our nighttime economy is fantastic, but our daytime economy is rather slow. A couple of companies moving 10-20 people into the area would make a big difference. Also, there really isn’t a hotel between downtown and Glendale, so either here in the BID or up by UWM there is definitely an opportunity there. As for a couple of specific projects I would like to see in the BID, I really want to see our 6-point intersection be a pilot for scramble intersections in this city, where all cars stop at once and you can cross in any direction you want. I’d also like to get creative with our sidewalks and other infrastructure, looking at the feasibility of refurbishing our bus shelters in this area to do green rooftops or solar panels with charging stations, keeping this area very unique, which is what I think this area is good at.
This is great area of the city and I always love checking out the happenings! Check out my previous post about Hacienda Beer Co..