People gathering places

When I arrived in Milwaukee, long before most people in the world who are living today were born, I tried in my public talks, in English tailored suits and accent, to convince social intellectuals here that sidewalk cafes added something special to living, something festive.

I lectured that we should work toward developing that type of culture for ourselves here in America, yes in Milwaukee.

That was almost half a century ago. Many millions of people of the world have died since.

Over the years those who have traveled to Europe have increased in numbers because of air travel. They have learned a bit of the festive nature of Europeans and their cities. We've seen it and developed a yearning for it but soon forget about it unless we live in New York.

This is a city that superimposes its culture on the underlying American one.  New York is our Rome, our Paris, a world cosmopolitan city.

Today, some of what is coffee shop and some of what is sidewalk cafe has entered our culture and has begun taking on a life of its own. People of the Milwaukee area would have understood what I was talking about today, even if they did not a few generations ago.

Then why, in the redevelopment of our business district here in Shorewood has no one been able to lead us further into that festive direction so that we will attract people onto these fancy sidewalks?

Are the new lamps, planters and brick cross ways going to do it on their own? And what if we throw in a few tables and chairs with umbrellas? Is that going to be enough?

Honoring the linear street and fast moving auto traffic ain't going to do it. Linear characteristics are for moving. These are the very opposite of clustering festive activities.

The grouping of our new buildings should encourage clustering, adding to a sense of enclosure and inspire and promote people gathering. Let's take another look at how the Europeans do it.

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