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February 2, 2012 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Moving with a newborn, part 2 - now we know we're going to Milwaukee! Please tell me everything.

(Here was Part 1.)

A job offer just came through at Marquette, which means we now know we'll be moving there sometime in mid-summer. (Looks like it'll probably be around July 1.) My primary question is about which neighborhood you think we should live in; our current plan is to rent in an area that's walkable/bikeable to Marquette for the first two or three years, then try to buy a house somewhere and a second car if required.

Turn-ons include walkable neighborhoods, bookstores, and delicious vegetarian-friendly cuisine. Turn-offs include crime and rodents. We're not drinkers -- which is to say we literally don't drink alcohol at all -- so we're not worried about proximity to bars except to the extent that drunk people could annoy us on weekends.

As a secondary question, I'd like to know everything you'd like to tell me about living in Milwaukee. My partner will be staying home with the baby for at least the first bit of our transition, so one thing we're definitely interested in is things for her to do and ways for her to meet people. The baby is our first baby so we're not super-worried about schools (yet); that will probably drive the second move in a few years though.

Neither one of us currently knows anyone in the city, though the faculty in my new department is very welcoming and friendly.

posted by gerryblog to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Welcome to Wisconsin! Judging by your inside header, you'll fit in just fine... I've never lived in Milwaukee, but arriving around July 1st puts you right in the middle of Summerfest so if your plans include staying at a hotel while you hunt for apartments, make those reservations now.
posted by carmicha at 7:53 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live in Milwaukee and have a newborn. Welcome. Marquette is not walkable from any of the really nice neighborhoods in town. There is an area of old huge houses that are being gentrified near there, but it is surrounded by not great areas and not within walking distance of coffee shops, restaurants, etc.

We live in Bay View, which is on the south side next to the lake. It is walkable to coffee, restaurants, library, farmer's market and more. The east side (which is the north part of town again next to the lake) is the other neighborhood I would recommend. It has more going on than Bay View in terms of restaurants, bars, shops; while Bay View is quieter. Both areas have plenty of rentals.

Both of these areas would require a 10-15 minute car commute to Marquette or ~5 mile bike ride. I haven't ridden the buses much lately, but it would require a transfer from Bay View (one bus down town, one bus west) and likely the same from the East side.

Another option would be the Third Ward, which is mostly old warehouses turned to condos/apts. It is immediately south of downtown, so closer to Marquette. Again a lot of restaurants, bars, shops and much more lively in the evening. Much less family oriented, but full of professionals.

Feel free to memail if you have other questions...
posted by sulaine at 8:32 AM on February 2, 2012

Welcome to Milwaukee!

I would second the suggestion that you not live within easy walking distance of Marquette; it's an area in evolution. I live in the East side, directly overlooking the lake; there are plenty of old houses with hardwood floors (and radiator heating, of course) that can be reasonably rented, as well as newer places. One landmark street when looking at properties on the lake is North Avenue; right around North Avenue you'll run into UWM collegetown which has all the excitement and noise, good and bad, of living on a college campus. A little south of there is quieter, and as far as I can tell I'm mostly surrounded by young professionals. There are definitely many vegetarian-friendly restaurants on the East Side.

Bay View is also nice; the historical Third Ward is kind of up-and-coming and artsy and seems like it would be fun to live in.

In any of those neighborhoods, you wouldn't have a long commute, as previously mentioned.

Feel free to memail if you'd like to chat more or have questions; Milwaukee has been a great place to live, I think, so I think you'll enjoy it here. How to meet people will naturally depend on you and your partner's interests, but you can probably find whatever you want around here. Lots and lots of ethnic/music/food festivals and parties in the summer, as well as multiple farmers' markets all over the city on all days of the week during the warm seasons.
posted by vetala at 9:09 AM on February 2, 2012

Bay View is perfect for someone with kids. There are bike/jogging trails along the lakefront and coffee shops and good restaurants to walk to (I dunno about vegetarian, but I'm sure there are some). It's quiet for 99% of the year* and I have no concerns about crime.

Marquette would be about a 20 minute commute by car from Bay View, assuming you have dedicated parking (otherwise, add about 10-15 minutes).

Wauwatosa would be another option; it's mostly quiet and the village is totally walkable with a charming independent bookstore.

The Third Ward would be a weird place to have a kid, as it's mostly 20-somethings and probably gets a little loud on weekends.

Areas to avoid: pretty much the entire north side and the near south side. Riverwest.

*Lakefront fireworks
posted by desjardins at 9:57 AM on February 2, 2012

our current plan is to rent in an area that's walkable/bikeable to Marquette for the first two or three years

Oh, I just saw this. Give up on walkable. The areas around Marquette are just not safe enough. Bikable? Bay View is probably out; you have to cut through either crime-ridden or industrial areas with few/no bike paths. Wauwatosa is still an option; there are on-street bike paths for most of the way, and it's about a 5 mile ride from the village. I wouldn't ride east of Hwy 41 in the dark, though.

The lower east side may still be okay; you could ride along the lakefront and through downtown on Wisconsin Ave (depends if you're used to biking with traffic). There will be more noise and crime, but as a 100 lb woman I never felt unsafe during daylight hours. Brady Street is awesome for its walkability. You'll have more vegetarian options on the east side, as well.

If you're willing to take the bus, you can expand your horizons considerably; there are lots of routes that converge on the Marquette/downtown area. In that case I'd definitely consider Bay View, although the commute will be around 45 minutes.

Feel free to memail me! I've lived here all my life minus a 4 year stint in Montana.
posted by desjardins at 10:26 AM on February 2, 2012

Response by poster: I'm hearing consensus on the walk-to-Marquette issue. Consider the idea abandoned! Thanks for the suggestions already given and for any others that come through...
posted by gerryblog at 10:30 AM on February 2, 2012

If you got a job at UW-Milwaukee you could walk to work! :)
posted by desjardins at 10:48 AM on February 2, 2012

I live in Washington Heights, a neighborhood full of kids and young families just east of Wauwatosa. Since city employees are required to live within the city limits, my neighborhood is full of cops, firemen, and teachers.

Oh, and the Marquette neighborhood is very "urban"... But just because of its location, don't be scared to work there. It's a great university.
posted by PSB at 10:54 AM on February 2, 2012

The East Side is the most walkable/bike able but least drive able. It's also the one with the most bookstores. One East Side downside with a young kid... many of the older homes/apartments have lead paint.

Bay View is a bit more family friendly and IMO is bike able.

One additional neighborhood I'd suggest is The Garden District just SW of Bay View. It's a short hop to the restaurants/culture of Bay View/downtown but really really cheap. There's a library within walking distance of the neighborhood and plenty of nearby parks.
posted by drezdn at 11:21 AM on February 2, 2012

Nthing the Marquette-ain't-walkable sentiment. Unless you want to move downtown, which won't fit well with your other desires.

As I see it, the nice areas in and around Milwaukee, all of which include walkable neighborhoods, a variety of great restaurants, and low crime, are these:

The East Side: North of downtown, from the lake to the river. I lived here in college (at UW-Milwaukee) and for several years after.

Bay View: South of downtown, also along the lake. Not sure how far west of the lake is still considered Bay View.

The North Shore: Small suburbs directly north of Milwaukee. Most are directly along the lake shore. This is where I live.

Wauwatosa ("Tosa"): Small suburb directly west of Milwaukee, bordered by the city on the north, south and east. I have a friend who works at Marquette who lives here, and he actually jogs home from work, but I think he's kind of crazy for doing so (both because of the distance and the neighborhoods he's going through).

In terms of walkability, I'd rank them as follows: East Side > North Shore > Bay View > Tosa

With regard to good restaurants, I'd rank them like so: East Side > Bay View > Tosa > North Shore

Now, as for other things you should know about Milwaukee, just off the top of my head:
- The lake is always east. Sure, this is obvious, but I think it's worth pointing out that it'll likely be the foundation of your geographical orientation. Beyond that, you'd be well-served to get familiar with I-43 and I-94 and the east/west grid of street numbers.
- Packer fans here are as many and as passionate as you might expect to find in Green Bay. If you're not a fan, as I'm not, Sunday afternoon is often a great time to do your grocery shopping.
- Speaking of groceries: There are farmer's markets all over town from Spring to Fall, and a weekly Winter one at State Fair Park. Great, cheap local produce.
- We have a great music scene here, but every now and then we'll need to go to Madison or Chicago for a show.
- Two hours to Chicago, on average.
- Ninety minutes to Madison, on average.
- The best Mexican food is on the South side, west of Bay View.
- Some nice vegetarian-friendly restaurants: Beans & Barley, Comet Cafe, Roots
- Stack'd burger bar has a great hand-made black bean burger.
- We get very excited in the spring, when it gets warm.
- Summerfest is a big deal for a lot of people. However, drunken boors abound. If that's not your cup of tea,
- There are festivals every weekend at the same grounds where Summerfest is held (Maier park, commonly referred to as "the Summerfest grounds" -- east of downtown, on the lake). Most of these have ethnic themes -- Irish Fest, German Fest, Festa Italiana, and so on -- and all feature music, food and beer.
- Milwaukeeans refer to water fountains as "bubblers" and ATMs as "Tyme machines".
- Milwaukeeans love to tell you about how we refer to water fountains as "bubblers" and ATMs as "Tyme machines".
- Our state parks are worth visiting.
- Our bike trails are nice. (Or so I think. Haven't explored these in other cities.)
- The Milwaukee Public School District isn't so hot, from what I gather.
- There's an excellent used book store, Downtown Books, just south of Wisconsin Avenue, downtown.
- Also check out Boswell Books, on the East side.
- Try Alterra Coffee.

I'll come back if I think of more.
posted by joshjs at 12:13 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

On edit: ("If that's not your cup of tea, I understand, but I'd encourage you to check it out once, at least. Ideally during the day.")
posted by joshjs at 12:16 PM on February 2, 2012

Not sure how far west of the lake is still considered Bay View.

Because I'm a dork, I made a rough map. Boundaries are subject to some disagreement. I personally would probably not live in the pink/purple areas and I would live in the green areas (I currently live in the southeast portion of the Bay View area).

- Two hours to Chicago, on average.

Take the train, there's no reason to have a car in downtown Chicago. The train is faster and you don't have to deal with (insane) traffic. For one person, it's often cheaper when you add up gas, tolls, and parking.

Sunday afternoon is often a great time to do your grocery shopping.

This is absolutely true.

- There's an excellent used book store, Downtown Books, just south of Wisconsin Avenue, downtown.

Also Renaissance Books downtown & at the airport.

It would be very helpful to know your housing budget. For reference, we have a 3 br upper with garage, 1/2 basement & attic one block off the lake for $1200.
posted by desjardins at 12:51 PM on February 2, 2012

According to the city of Milwaukee, the South West edge of Bay View is 6th and Morgan. According to some graffiti artist, it's Howell and Morgan. It's a contentious issue for some people (not for me, I can claim to live in Bay View, The Town of Lake,and the Tippecanoe neighborhood).

The Milwaukee Public School District isn't so hot, from what I gather.

Oddly enough, one of the best schools in the state is part of MPS. Doing research for my son (who'll be starting school in the fall), the grade schools are actually pretty good (going by test scores) in and around Bay View. There are neighborhoods that are filled with teachers/police/city employees that will be pretty safe and have decent grade schools. There are also public Montessori grade schools on the East Side and near Bay View.
posted by drezdn at 1:02 PM on February 2, 2012

Alumni here. My former roommate had worked at Marquette and now resides in Ceadarburg. Not a bike distance, but rated one of the Best Places to live in America. One of the discussions on Linkedin had a Townhouse listing: www.2637nstowellavenue.blogspot.com.
posted by brent at 8:22 AM on February 4, 2012

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