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Housing Authority and Growing Power partner to create a healthier Westlawn

Growing Power’s president/CEO Will Allen is joined by Tony Pérez, HACM Secretary- Executive Director at the reception held last week announcing the partnership between Growing Power and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM). (Photo by Robert A. Bell)

The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) and Growing Power have established a partnership to improve nutrition, health education and access to fresh food as part of the revitalization of the Westlawn public housing development. The partnership was celebrated at a reception last week at Growing Power Headquarters, 5500 W. Silver Spring Drive.

“This partnership demonstrates how communities can utilize their local experts to become stronger, healthier places to live. The combined efforts of Growing Power and the Housing Authority will truly help to transform the neighborhood,” said Mayor Tom Barrett.

Among other activities, Growing Power will manage 30,000 square feet of new community gardens planned for Westlawn along Lincoln Creek, provide training and education on sustainable food production and healthy nutrition, and recruit residents for employment and job training. Growing Power has also begun housing interns in HACM apartments within the Westlawn development, providing the interns with increased opportunities to dialogue with residents about healthy food options and nutrition.

“Growing Power is excited to further develop our partnership with the Housing Authority and all of the other folks involved in the Westlawn development,” said Growing Power founder and CEO Will Allen. “This new development will complement our plans to construct the world’s first fivestory vertical farm building at our Silver Spring Drive location and expand our services to the immediate community and beyond.”

The Westlawn revitalization plan, developed through extensive community sessions with residents, local businesses, community stakeholders and professional developers, is replacing distressed, barracks-style buildings with an aesthetically and economically diverse mix of housing and services. The plan seeks to increase quality of life for residents and serve as a catalyst for positive change in the surrounding neighborhood.

“We are pleased to partner with Growing Power to bring their innovative and practical applications in urban farming and health education to Westlawn. We are neighbors working together to strengthen our neighborhood,” said Tony Pérez, HACM Secretary-Executive Director.

Located five blocks east of Westlawn, Growing Power has established a Community Food Center that supports sustainable food-producing systems that are used for demonstration, production, and hands-on learning. These systems are cost-effective, reduce negative environmental impacts, and can be integrated into any community, especially high-density urban areas.

Growing Power has provided job training, leadership development, and skill-building in urban sustainable agriculture to countless youth from and around Westlawn who have participated in its youth programs, such as the Growing Power Youth Corps and the afterschool Urban Agriculture program at the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center.

The first phase of the Westlawn revitalization is well under way with work moving forward on 250 affordable units on 37 acres extending from 60th Street to 64th Street between Silver Spring Drive and Lincoln Creek on Milwaukee’s Northwest side. Two 47-unit mid-rises are complete and an additional 156 family units in a combination of townhouse and side-by-side styles are underway.

HACM is rebuilding Westlawn to meet or exceed new environmental standards, including LEED Neighborhood Development certification. Sustainable design strategies will create economic efficiencies and reduce impact on the environment and city infrastructure through improved storm water management. In addition, new streets will reconnect Westlawn to the city grid to improve traffic flow.