Pete Cooney’s popsicle company began as a creative outlet outside of the intense work environment at his first job with Rexnord Corporation.
“I started to really get into food: trying new restaurants, looking at food and reading about stuff going on across the country,” he said.
Inspired by similar ideas in other cities and the culture of traditional paleta vendors, Cooney (a graduate of Marquette’s BLANK program in 2010, launched his startup, Pete’s Pops, in 2014. He began selling the frozen treats in Milwaukee’s Third Ward and now also sells them at farmers markets and local festivals.
The company is a side gig for Cooney and the
On Sept. 27, Cooney won Rev-Up MKE, a small business competition organized by the Cooney finished the months-long competition to received $10,000 in startup funds and will relocate Pete’s Pops into a now-empty storefront on the Near West Side. He expects the store to open May 2017.
Although the St. Louis native knew little about the NWSP prior to the business competition, he was familiar with the neighborhoods and learned more about the NWSP and the communities throughout the competition.
“I always thought there was potential,” he said of the Near West Side. “I looked, even for my own business, at some of the vacant properties and things.”
The NWSP was founded in 2014 with the support of five anchor institutions from the area: Marquette University, Harley Davidson, Aurora Health Care, MillerCoors and Potowatomi Business Development Corporation.
The nonprofit’s mission is to revitalize and sustain the seven neighborhoods in the Near West Side with a focus on creating thriving business and residential areas. The Near West Side neighborhoods include Avenues West, Concordia, Miller Valley, Piggsville/the Valley, Martin Drive, Merrill Park and Cold Spring Park. The communities are bound by I-43 on the e
The organization launched its first major program in April 2015, the Promoting Assets Reducing Crime (PARC) initiative to address safety, neighborhood perceptions and economic development opportunities in each of the seven communities comprising the Near West Side.
Since then, the NWSP has been continuing to launch programs, create connections throughout the city and become a presence in the Near West Side neighborhoods. In fall 2015, The NWSP expanded the Milwaukee Business Improvement District #10 to include all Near West Side neighborhoods and launched a green space initiative with the City of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. Last year, the organization announced an ambassador program to continue engaging with area businesses and residents.
The NWSP were involved in efforts to shut down a tobacco shop located on 27th street and participated in an event where Governor Scott Walker signed Assembly Bill 628, which will address safety, save taxpayer resources and promote economic development in Milwaukee. The partnership held a Design Charette with UWM Community Design Solution Center to create redevelopment ideas for six sites in the Near West Side.
“There’s a lot of activity going on in the Near West Side.,” said Keith Stanley, executive director of the NWSP and Avenues West, said during a bus tour of neighborhood homes in September.
On Marquette’s side of things, Daniel Bergen, executive director of Marquette’s Office of Community Engagement, serves as the co-chair of the NWSP housing working team, which is comprised of representatives from the anchor institutions and the community. One of the group’s projects is the good neighbor designation, which Bergen said is a criteria to assess properties and highlight owners and managers who are doing good work in the community.
Although the NWSP’s mission focuses on the revitalization of the neighborhoods in the community, when it comes to conversations about urban renewal, the issue of preserving the essence of the pre-existing community often comes to light. The fear, or lack thereof, is of gentrification. .
Gentrification is the movement of wealthier people into city neighborhoods. In some cases, gentrification can lead to the displacement of people with who already live there but can no longer afford to. A 2016 case study of gentrification and resident mobility in Philadelphia found that gentrifying neighborhoods in the city have higher rates of mobility than people in non-gentrifying communities. The study also found that although more vulnerable residents did not have higher rates of movement, when the vulnerable residents do move, they are more likely to end up in less advantaged neighborhoods.
Public investment can also have an impact on gentrification in neighborhoods. According to an article from CityLab, improved mass transit, investment in public schools, creation of parks and open spaces can also drive up property values and capture the attention of advantaged groups with the ability to move into the neighborhood.
Roberta Coles, a sociology professor in the College of Arts & Sciences, said in this scenario, the gentrifying neighborhood is moving up while the less advantaged neighborhood sees more concentrated poverty. The result is not just geographical, but also socioeconomic divisions.
“There’s already inequality in