Westlawn Gardens wins big national planning award

Federal program that helped fund project faces elimination.

Westlawn Gardens, the biggest public housing project in Wisconsin, has won a major national planning award for its transformation of the old Westlawn development, a transformation that is still under way.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the American Planning Association announced Wednesday that Westlawn Gardens had received the HUD Secretary’s Opportunity & Empowerment Award, which recognizes projects that improve the quality of life for low- and moderate-income residents.

According to a statement from the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, the award emphasizes “how creative housing, economic development and private investments have been used in or with a comprehensive community development plan to build social equity and empower individuals and families who reside in that community.”

Milwaukee Magazine ran a story in January about Westlawn Gardens, describing how its ongoing makeover is aimed at improving life in a wide swath of Milwaukee’s Northwest Side. 

A release from HUD quoted HUD Secretary Ben Carson as saying: “Milwaukee’s Westlawn Gardens is a great example of what can be achieved through public-private partnerships and an innovative approach to community planning. We endeavor to see more public housing communities adopt similar strategies and create a healthy, sustainable living environment for families.”

Milwaukee and its Housing Authority received a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Implementation Grant from HUD in 2015 — one of five such grants given out nationally that year — to support the second phase of development at the complex and in the surrounding neighborhoods. Funding for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative was cut back sharply under the Trump administration’s current budget approved by Congress, and this year just $5 million in grants were given out nationwide. There’s no funding for the initiative in Trump’s 2019 budget, according to NAHRO (the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials).

Click here for more information on the Westlawn Gardens project.




Tom Tolan is managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine, where he's worked since January 2016. He spent 24 years at The Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a copy editor, assistant metro editor and reporter. He lives in Shorewood.