Milwaukee’s Year in Review: 14 Highs and Lows for 2017

The highs and lows of this year, according to us and a few friends.

The Milwaukee Film Festival grew yet again with some 84,000 attendees, which is more than the population of Waukesha. The festival remains the epitome of Milwaukee fun, neighborly, low-stress but surprising.

We end the year with both the Milwaukee County Board and Common Council embroiled in budget-related infighting. In particular, the relationship between County Board Chairman Theo Lipscomb and County Executive Chris Abele has become strained, continuing the long tradition of the folks in those two positions going to war.

In October, few knew what to make of Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to fold on the plan to spend $1 billion to widen Interstate 94 between the Marquette and Zoo Interchanges (roughly). In hindsight, let’s consider this Step One in breaking our addiction to Death Star-sized highway projects.

When it came to selecting a site for the massive Foxconn facility, it was as if we never had a dog in the fight. The complex will end up in Racine County, and Milwaukee County will be left with scraps.

Despite the frigid weather of early 2017, workers finished the exterior of the new Northwestern Mutual Tower Downtown, which is clad in glass panels created at a facility in the central city. The building’s interior opened later in the year.

We heard it from a couple sources: It seems to be a new day on North Avenue. Bar and restaurant closings are remaking the map, and not necessarily for the better. Hotel Foster, Value Village, BBC and Yield, we’ll miss you.


Photo courtesy of The Marcus Corporation

Greg Marcus

CEO of the Marcus Corporation

High: “The rest of the world is seeing the potential in Milwaukee that we’ve always seen.”

Low: “We still haven’t taken the steps we need to take to make our convention center what it needs to be for Milwaukee to truly compete with other comparable cities. This is a huge drag on our tourism and the related economic benefits.”

Photo courtesy of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Peggy Troy

CEO of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

High: “The ongoing reduction of the teen pregnancy rate in Milwaukee, demonstrating the power of community collaboration.”

Low: “Violence in our community continued to be a low in 2017, punctuated by the deaths of five children whose lives were cut short during the year’s first nine months.”


Pete Prodoehl

Milwaukee Makerspace

High: “The trolley! We’re excited about it. Some might call it a low, but I’ve talked to people in other cities with similar transportation systems. Also, Milverine got a dog!”

Low: “The trolley! Anyone who goes through Downtown is not excited about the construction. Streets are closed. It’s painful, but it’s (hopefully) temporary.”

David Bowen

State Representative

High: “My highlight of the year is the unveiling of my bill to observe the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day.”

Low: “Gov. Walker’s continued failure to not so much as visit, let alone address, the mounting allegations of abuse and neglect and constant unrest at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons.”

‘Annual Review’ appears in the December 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning November 27, or buy a copy at

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Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.