Plan for fixedup playground in the works

Bordered by West State Street on the north, West Kilbourn Street on the south, North 19th Street to the west and North 18th Street to the east, lies a city block of deteriorating asphalt called Norris Playground.

The area, owned by the City of Milwaukee and used mostly by local public schools, prompted a feasibility study to assess how the park can be restored to better serve Marquette and the surrounding community.

The university, neighborhood landowners, the Near West Side Association Inc. and other community members began the study this spring with plans to finish by Dec. 3, but completed it early.

The groups considered several uses for the area, from club sports to unplanned recreational activities.

"I think that this administration needs to address the lack of green space, especially for club sports," said Marquette Student Government Senator Dan Calandriello, author of the Norris Playground bill and a College of Business Administration sophomore. "If Norris is not the solution, what is?"

Carol Winkel, director of Community Relations, agreed.

"From the Marquette standpoint, our students can really benefit from having some green space on campus," she said.

However, Marquette will not be the only one taking advantage of the playground if it is redeveloped.

Milwaukee public schools and community members would be able to organize recreational activities at the playground, according to Avenues West Executive Director June Moberly.

Moberly said she would like to see the area be available for people outside the university to use, too.

Hertado Consulting Firm conducted the feasibility study, which cost about $10,000, of which Marquette paid $1,500, Calandriello said. The study addressed concerns over the dilapidated state of the playground.

Calandriello said the lack of use stems from a 10 percent decline in area residents and the demographics of current residents, a majority of whom are between the ages of 18 and 34.

The space has not only become an eyesore but has also emerged as a possible solution to the lack of green space on campus, Calandriello said.

If the project moves forward, the space could be utilized as a practice field for Marquette's club sports, programming space for the Residence Hall Association and Greek Life and a daycare facility and leisure space for the community.

The possibilities are many, but the main point is to use Norris.

"I personally don't think it's good public policy to have publicly owned lands just sitting there not serving any useful purpose," Moberly said.

Stakeholders in the Norris project met several times over the summer, according to Calandriello. They identified the main obstacle that must be overcome before the project can get underway as commitment to ownership.

Calandriello said the city wants Marquette to take full liability and ownership of the playground, but the university does not want to be the "800-pound gorilla" of the neighborhood, nor does it want to spend money for the upkeep.

Until the issue is resolved, no official plans can be drawn up for the space. If all negotiations and planning processes go smoothly, Calandriello said, construction is set to be complete by the fall of 2005.