Two weeks after Marquette announced a partnership with city businesses to improve its surrounding neighborhood, the Near West Side Partners said the primary concern to address is safety.
The Partners expressed this during a presentation to Marquette Student Government, which was delivered by Rana Altenburg, the university’s vice president of public affairs.
Marquette has partnered with other local corporations including Harley –Davidson Inc., Aurora Health Care Inc., MillerCoors LLC and Potawatomi Business Development Corp. to improve the neighborhood.
Altenburg said the Near West Side Partners discussions began when President Michael Lovell was named university president last year and met with other CEOs in the neighborhood.
“Mike Lovell has made it a priority to reach out to our community leaders and partner with them,” Altenburg said. “We have worked really hard to build trust with our community leaders,” she said.
Altenburg asked the senators what they thought the biggest risk to the neighborhood was and all agreed that it was safety.
Altenburg also said Harley-Davidson, a company that brings over a thousand jobs to the neighborhood, was considering moving their headquarters because of the fundamental issues in the neighborhood.
“When you look at the people and companies that have been here for over a hundred years and hear they don’t feel safe, that is alarming,” Altenburg said.
Altenburg said that a majority of the crime is focused west of the university, where the Department of Public Safety patrol ends. Altenburg added that the areas adjacent to the anchors in the neighborhood all experience less crime.
“Throughout the neighborhood, crime is really only a major challenge in 10 to 12 blocks,” Altenburg said. “We have to start thinking more collectively when we address crime,” she said.
Altenburg said despite the challenges in the neighborhood, the Near West Side is full of assets including a bed and breakfast district, education, health care, and businesses as well as ease of access to the rest of the city.
Some of the assets that Altenburg said the neighborhood needs to continue growth is a grocery store and fresh produce, housing for people who work in the neighborhood and retail shops.
“The only retail shop I could think of in the neighborhood is the Spirit Shop in the (Alumni Memorial Union),” Altenburg.
Altenburg explained that several companies have already began improving the neighborhood, from Harley-Davidson branding their borders and the Ambassador Hotel buying the corner of 27th and Wells streets from the county.
Altenburg said that the strategy of the partners would be to reduce crime and promote the neighborhood assets.
She said one of the keys to Near West Side Partners being successful is for the students at Marquette to become more involved in the neighborhood.
“We need students to want to live here, and learn more about our neighborhood,” Altenburg said. “I would love if the student government could organize some focus groups so we can analyze these issues in a closer perspective.”
Senator Aliya Manjee, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences asked what the Near West Side Partners were doing to address the homelessness problem and how new housing development might affect low income housing in the neighborhood.
“Is there anything in your agenda to address the poverty and homelessness, or do you just plan to revitalize businesses and hope that that will affect the level of poverty,” Manjee asked.
Altenburg explained that the neighborhood is filled with nonprofit organizations that are helping with homelessness and the partnership will have to learn how to work together to help the neighborhood.