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Marquette leads the way on a community partnership

Marquette University sits within only a few square miles of some of the city’s other iconic brands, organizations that draw millions of visitors annually. Each business possesses a deep love for Milwaukee and the west side communities they call home — a home that needs to return to its former luster.

Marquette, distinctly called by its Catholic, Jesuit mission to serve its urban neighborhood, was positioned to help lead the renaissance. In 2014, President Michael R. Lovell convened senior leadership from more than 30 organizations to develop a community partnership, the Near West Side Partners. The nonprofit agency includes five anchors located in the neighborhood — Marquette, Harley-Davidson, Potawatomi Business Development Corporation, Aurora Health Care, and MillerCoors.

The university continues to lead the way in the partnership. Nearly 25 departments at Marquette are committed to the effort, including trustee and working team leadership, faculty research, and student interns and volunteers.

In addition, a project administered by a Marquette committee, Promoting Assets and Reducing Crime (PARC), works directly with the neighborhood initiative to address safety issues, identity and branding, housing, and commercial corridor development.

The efforts are paying off. Property sales increased by 16 percent from 2014 to 2015, and seven formerly vacant homes were sold to owner-occupants. A total of 23 percent of the commercial corridor properties increased in value while 71 percent had maintained value.

There has been development of a new park, a new community garden, the closure of two nuisance properties, and the opening of three restaurants and a gas station.

“We’re proud that Marquette University calls Milwaukee’s Near West Side its home and proud of its long-standing commitment to making the Near West Side the best place to live, work, and play in Milwaukee,” said Keith Stanley, executive director of Near West Side Partners. “Marquette’s leadership and vision were essential to the development of this unprecedented partnership.”