The Importance of Revitalization Efforts in Walnut Hill
Located just east of the official Washington Park neighborhood, Walnut Hill has been labeled one of Milwaukee's most blighted areas. In the early 20th century, Walnut Hill was a vibrant and safe area. The neighborhood began to see a serious decline in the 1980s, and this deterioration continues today.
Contributing factors to Walnut Hill's continuous deterioration are: white flight, suburbanization, disinvestment, and clearance for the construction of a freeway that never ended up being built. The neighborhood's population as a whole decreased by 38% between 1980 and 2000, simultaneously losing close to 75% of its white residents; the current white population in Walnut Hill is less than 20%. All of this led to a severe decrease in housing quality and a great increase in the number of low income households in one area when compared to the City of Milwaukee as a whole.
Within the same 20-year period during which the population decrease occurred, the Walnut Hill neighborhood in conjunction with the neighboring Midtown area lost more than 4,000 of their homes. The quality of the remaining homes continued to diminish, and many were acquired by the City of Milwaukee.
Some revitalization efforts were held in Walnut Hill in the late 1980s, and between 1989 and 2005, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity succeeded in placing more than 170 families in homes between this neighborhood and Midtown.
Today, Walnut Hill is included within the boundaries of Washington Park Partners' Washington Park Neighborhood Improvement District. In this district, Washington Park Partners are focusing on improving upon seven main themes: Arts & Culture, Education, Health & Wellness, Housing, Jobs & Business, The Park, and Safety. Through this revitalization plan, the Washington Park Partners organization hopes to provide grants to current homeowners in order to allow them to maintain their homes. The organization is also looking to bring more jobs to the area, start community projects, and develop a more sustainable neighborhood. The ultimate goal of Washington Park Partners in this major revitalization effort is to return Washington Park and Walnut Hill to their former states of being desirable places to live.
As the data collected over the years clearly indicates, Walnut Hill is in great need of revitalization. Perhaps one of the most important changes the area can see would be an increase in jobs. Milwaukee already has a large disparity of wealth between its black and white households, with black households making an average of just 42 cents on the white dollar. Joblessness in a neighborhood is one of the main contributors to higher levels of illegal activity, which ultimately lowers the level of safety and desirability. Bringing jobs into Walnut Hill may help to lower the poverty rate and ultimately raise the standard of living in this neighborhood. Additional efforts such as improving the curb appeal of existing homes may also contribute to a better neighborhood all-around.