The City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO) and the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District shared updated plans on November 27 for the renovation of Victory Over Violence Park in Bronzeville.

Victory Over Violence Park was created in the 1990s in partnership with the local nonprofit Career Youth Development (CYD), formerly housed in the building next to the park. The planned renovations will transform the park back into a healing place for urban trauma victims, as well as a gathering place for community events. All reconstruction will honor the park’s historic intent.

“The city was invited to the table to be part of the planning. And we’re very glad to be involved in the process that was started by a wonderful group of neighborhood residents and community stakeholders,” said Tim McCollow, HOME GR/OWN Program Manager. “We’ve been getting community input, and doing design work with a number of different organizations for a couple years now. We see the renovation of the park as a welcome addition to the King Drive Commercial Corridor, which we all know has really taken off economically in recent years.”

Yet for all the commercial momentum, the business corridor still lacked a quality greenspace. Renovation of the iconic park will transform it into a new town commons for the neighborhood and for the city, just a few blocks from downtown. The HOME GR/OWN initiative, led by the city’s Environmental Collaboration Office, has converted almost 100 vacant lots into parks, community gardens, orchards, and farms all across the city. They are the kind of healthy greenspaces that help bring neighborhoods together.

Located on the northwest corner of N. Doctor Martin Luther King Drive and W. Clarke Street, Victory Over Violence Park was created in the 1990s. The next renovation phase in the multi-year project will be completed in July 2020.

“This is part of our continuing tribute to the work of Jennetta Simpson-Robinson, an incredible citizen and leader in this city,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “It was through her efforts, with support from CYD, that the park was created. But after Jennetta passed, the park really fell into disrepair. But we have finally come to this point, where the community came together to say this space is important. And we want to make sure that this is a vibrant place where people can congregate.”

Mayor Barrett said part of the project was about reclaiming the space, making it safe, usable, and something that would be viewed as an asset rather than a liability. He applauded all the community partners and who have been trying to bring the park back to life, so it could return to being a place that made everyone proud.

Victory Over Violence Park is well known throughout Milwaukee. For years, the site was a vacant lot, and had become one of the most dangerous and violent areas of the central city where multiple shootings, muggings, and assaults were reported. After work was completed in the 1990s, the space continued to require care, attention, and maintenance. This iteration of the VOV Park restoration will be focused on the sustainability of it as an engaging place for neighbors to spend time outdoors.

“Today, families throughout Milwaukee are in pain. Many of our families are being impacted by senseless violence throughout the city. We’re hearing about the domestic disputes leading to traumatic situations. We are being confronted with senseless shootings. We are seeing reckless driving at an epidemic level with children losing their lives to individuals that chose to not obey a traffic signal,” said Deshea Agee, Executive Director of the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District #8. “With all of this violence, we need strategies to employ to make lives better for people living in this community and throughout the city.”

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Lee Matz and ecoCity of Milwaukee