36th Annual Locust Street Festival

Though it was a pleasure to reach out to the City of Milwaukee from the exit row of an Air Tran headed for D.C., I am even more excited to be in attendance at one of my favorite street festivals this year: Locust Street Festival. As such, I felt it aptly appropriate to revisit a post I had written nearly one year ago regarding my neighborhood’s very own celebration of the conserved Locust Street and the continued connection between the North and the South sides of Riverwest. Cheers to our narrow neighborhood thoroughfare!

Originally Posted June 11, 2011:

Locust Street Festival has for the past several years has been one of my favorite weekend festivals/block parties. It’s the kick off to festival season and an official sign of summer. Beer in the street, the one day a year to have breakfast at Nessun Dorma, live music, and familiar faces at every turn. This may be old news to some, but it recently came to my attention that Locust Street days is a celebration to commemorate the Common Council’s vote against widening Locust Street between Holton and Humboldt as had been proposed in the 1970s in order to facilitate traffic to UWM. Though at the time, it seems there were mixed sentiments in the neighborhood about such an expansion, the festival originated in celebration of preserving this narrow thoroughfare and ultimately the neighborhood of Riverwest. It would be fair to say that such an expansion would have marred the Riverwest neighborhood, severing the community in half: north versus south. A distinction that still slightly exists due to zoning codes and the natural progression of neighborhood expansion over time, but a separation that would have been far more overt had Locust been widened to a boulevard.

The results of this planning are present west of Holton where Locust was widened to a boulevard. Four lanes of traffic alienating north from south leaving the south side of the Locust barren without its keystone corner structures and street side facades. The boulevard slices into the south side of the street awkwardly revealing the once secluded rear homes and yards. The bottleneck at Holton and Locust Streets is an indication of how the proposed boulevard would likewise continue into the south side of Locust between Holton and Humboldt as well. Despite it’s awkwardness, the bottleneck is a sign of a preserved Riverwest; its walk-ability, its hailed sense of community, and the landmarks that are a part of our everyday lives: Sunrise Food Market, a pint at Riverwest Public House, or a show at Linnemanns.

I write to you, Milwaukee, from the exit row of an AirTran flight bound for Washington, D.C. A bittersweet opportunity put me in route for an intense week of Preservation Leadership Training; an invaluable opportunity no doubt, one that I accept in lieu of my favorite street festival. However, as you watch bands play on Weil, have a Stein, and take a look at the streetscape that could have been lost. To Linnemann’s, Sunrise, Riverwest Public House, and many more, Cheers.

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