This older Milwaukee area community strives to attract development
As a landlocked community with old housing and a stagnant population, Cudahy faces great challenges.
But Cudahy – named for its 19th-century industrial roots – is taking steps to attract new residents and expand business development.
This includes a recently approved downtown development plan that presents design guidelines to encourage greater density as well as public improvements such as cycle paths and outdoor plazas; allow restaurants and bars to use street parking lanes to sit outside and create an additional tax funding district to help pay for commercial projects.
These changes come as Cudahy sees apartments and other major commercial developments being built in the neighboring towns of St. Francis and South Milwaukee, two South Shore communities facing similar challenges.
“We have to compete like everyone else,” said Mayor Thomas Pavlic. “To manage our day-to-day operations, we need to broaden our tax base.”
Cudahy has long been known as the birthplace of heavy industry.
The community initially centered around a meat-packing factory and housing for its workers, which brothers Patrick and John Cudahy built in the early 1890s.
Other companies that followed included Ladish Co. and Red Star Yeast, according to the Cudahy Historical Society.
The meat packing plant is now owned by Smithfield Foods and has approximately 1,000 employees.
But other businesses have disappeared, some are closing and others are moving to newer buildings in modern industrial parks.
Cudahy’s population is estimated at 18,093, down about 1% from 18,267 in 2010, according to the Wisconsin Department of Administration.
The city has seen little new development in recent years.
High-end apartments in Saint-François
Meanwhile, St. Francis has added hundreds of new upscale lakeside apartments.
In addition, the former Bucyrus Corp. in South Milwaukee could accommodate 167 affordable and market-priced apartments, as well as a restaurant.
“We are trying to emulate that,” Pavlic told Journal Sentinel.
The new development plan covers the entrance gate and downtown Cudahy.
This area is centered on Layton Avenue between Lake Drive and I-794. Most of the area is south of Layton Avenue and includes portions of Packard, Whitnall and Pennsylvania Avenues.
The plan, designed by Milwaukee architectural firm Rinka, has several design goals. These include activating the city center, creating a gateway to the city, improving walking ability and establishing better connections between the lakeside and the city center.
It would achieve these goals in part through public improvements such as streets designed to accommodate improved cycle paths and crosswalks to make walking safer and more attractive.
Other upgrades could include public art, sidewalk benches, and “pocket squares” that provide green space for music performances and other amenities.
The plan also recommends design guidelines for new commercial buildings in the entrance area and downtown.
These include minimum heights to encourage taller buildings than the one or two story structures typically found in Cudahy.
This includes an emphasis on developments that have a mix of uses, with commercial space at street level and other uses, such as residential, on upper floors.
“Density is what we need,” Pavlic said. “We cannot spread out. So we have to go up.”
Other design recommendations include ensuring that adequate parking is provided “without adversely affecting the urban commercial and residential features of the planning area”.
New outdoor terrace
Meanwhile, the Common Council in August amended city ordinances to allow bars and restaurants to add outdoor seating in street parking lanes.
These seats are authorized from April 1 to November 1.
Cudahy’s outdoor seating program is similar to what Milwaukee, Shorewood, West Allis, Wauwatosa, and other communities in Southeastern Wisconsin have been doing in recent years.
Pavlic said he expects some taverns and restaurants to use the program in 2022.
Scott Orcholski is hoping to have seating outside his tavern, RPJ’ss, 3557 E. Squire Ave., next spring. In addition to offering more capacity, the outdoor seating will help draw attention to the tavern, he said.
Orcholski opened RPJ’s in 2019. It has operated another Cudahy tavern, Sotille’s Pub, 3776 E. Layton Ave., since 2017.
Finally, on September 21, the council approved a 154-acre tax financing district for the front door and downtown.
He estimates ultimately spending $ 46.2 million in this area – with those funds generated from property taxes coming from new commercial developments in the district, which would add up to about $ 183 million in new property tax base.
Most of the spending would total $ 37.6 million for new roads, sewers, water pipes and other public improvements.
The plan also provides $ 7.7 million to help fund business developments.
Such incentives are necessary, Pavlic said, in part because the district includes development sites that require environmental cleanups.
The neighborhood has so far at least one commercial development on hold.
This is a proposal by Chicago-based HSA Commercial Real Estate Inc. to replace the old demolished truck terminal of Roadrunner Transportation Systems Inc., 4850 S. Pennsylvania Ave., with a 130-light industrial building. 600 square feet.
The Planning Commission in 2020 has rezoned the site to allow this project.
HSA officials did not respond to a request for more information on the launch date of this project.
Calling for the youngest residents
Pavlic and other city officials hope to see further development proposals.
Cudahy has an aging housing stock and needs new buildings to attract young residents, Pavlic said.
The city also needs features like cafes, cycle paths and other upgrades to attract more people, he said.
Admittedly, the driving was not completely smooth.
The Common Council, with the support of Pavlic, rejected in 2019 a plan to reduce car lanes and replace them with bike lanes on a 1-mile stretch of Packard Avenue, one of the main streets north. south of town.
Residents told council members they fear the narrowing of the street could cause traffic jams and make it harder for businesses to enter and exit along Packard Avenue.
This so-called “road diet” was advocated by then-Ald. Justin Moralez.
Moralez, who resigned from the board in April, said the rejection of Packard Avenue bike lanes was a lost opportunity – road resurfacing not continuing.
But, the plan designed by Rinka and other new measures will help the city, he said.
“I really think there are a lot of opportunities for Cudahy,” Moralez said.
Orcholski noticed more young people in its taverns, including some who moved to Cudahy. He said the development plan and the TIF neighborhood are both good ideas for attracting more businesses and residents.
“We’re sort of on the verge of doing some really good things,” said Orcholski, whose family moved to Cudahy in 2017 on the east side of Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, Pavlic hopes the actions taken by city officials this year will help Cudahy emulate his neighbors in St. Francis and South Milwaukee.
“We need to attract high-end investments. he said.