As 2016 comes to a close, a peek at the pages of the Greenfield West Allis Now shows a lot happened in the last 12 months.
The top 10 stories are:
President-elect comes to town
Love him or hate him, a visit by the president-elect is a big deal.
Donald Trump, who will take the oath of office next month, was in West Allis at the Wisconsin State Fair Park Dec. 13 to say thank you to those who supported him in Wisconsin. He spoke for an hour. The occasion drew top Wisconsin Republicans to the city, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Senator Ron Johnson.
Like the rest of the country, area residents were divided in the race for president. In the November balloting, Greenfield went for Trump, giving him 48 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton's 46 percent. Perhaps ironically given the location of Trump's thank you, West Allis went for Clinton in a big way - 53 percent to Trump's 38 percent.
Spring brings largest private project in Greenfield history
In April, the Greenfield Common Council approved plans for the largest private construction project in the city -- the 84 South development on Layton Avenue between 84th and 92nd streets.
By the latest estimates, the massive complex of stores, restaurants and multifamily residential building could eventually add $150 million to Greenfield’s tax base.
Cobalt Partners began construction in July.
It soon announced that in addition to Steinhafels moving into the center from its current location at 84th and Layton, the popular Portillo’s Hot Dogs that sells much more than dogs, and the Fresh Thyme Farmers Market would come to 84South. These retailers are expected to open next summer.
This fall, Cobalt Partners announced the names of a number of additional businesses that will move in. They include Total Wine, Kirklands home decor and gift store, Carter’s baby and children’s apparel and Five Below, a store that sells items for no more than $5.
In addition to the stores, restaurants and offices, the plan includes 360 apartments. In October, the common council approved the apartments on the west side of the site. The northwest portion of the site would be for a number of potential uses including a hotel and offices.
Massive redistribution of students gets under way
In an effort to re-establish neighborhood schools, the West Allis-West Milwaukee schools undertook a massive redistribution of students this year, mainly by curtailing transfers.
Until this fall, one in five students attended class outside their neighborhoods.The school board adopted strict transfer rules in February. However, children not at their neighborhood schools are allowed to stay at them until it's time to go on to intermediate or high school. Then they will go to their neighborhood schools. Another accommodation is that siblings are allowed to follow them in transfer schools, under certain circumstances.
Greenfield celebrates gift of park amphitheater
With speeches and Sousa marches, Greenfield officially opened its new amphitheater in Konkel Park on Saturday, July 2, the first day of the city’s Fourth of July celebration.
The amphitheater was a gift of the late Robert O. Schlytter through his ROS Foundation. Schlytter, one of Greenfield’s first aldermen, and Mayor Michael Neitzke envisioned an amphitheater partly so that musicians entertaining at the Greenfield Farmers Market would not have to sit on crates anymore. But their vision was much larger, too. They envisioned an amphitheater that would help give a sense of place to a city that has never really had one, Neitzke said.
“We were blessed to have a benefactor who cared so deeply about the city,” Neitzke said. Schlytter died in September 2015.
The first to perform on the amphitheater stage at the opening was the Greenfield Concert Band Quintet. Later in the month, the country guitar and singing duo of Alyssia Dominguez and Jeremy Zima, kicked off the inaugural three-concert season in the new amphitheater
Cold wind from WIAA freezes out Hale-Central football rivalry
In the snows of January, the West Allis-West Milwaukee school officials were already trying to get the WIAA to let Nathan Hale High School move into the Woodland Athletic Conference so it can stay with Central.
Under a plan the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association adopted, Central was switched from the Greater Metro Conference, but Hale wasn't. It didn't qualify, the WIAA said.
In January, West Allis school officials pushed for both schools either being in the Woodland Conference or in a new conference that was under consideration.
Their efforts came to naught. Splitting the high schools into different conferences meant the end of the Hale-Central football rivalry that has lasted 76 years. The teams played their last game Sept. 16. Central scored a decisive 27 to 14 victory.
Greenfield city and schools toss out internet providers
In February, Greenfield and two school districts within its borders were on the verge of what some call a ground-breaking agreement to toss out their internet providers and install and their own fiber optic network.
The city and the Greenfield schools have struggled with various issues with their internet providers. The cooperative arrangement was expected to result in a better system for less cost. In addition to the city, the cooperative arrangement includes the Greenfield and Whitnall school districts.
By June, construction was under way. The fiber optics network starts at Alverno College and extends to municipal buildings and schools in both school districts. It was up and running close to the start of the school year.
It was a 'tear your hair out' year for drivers
West Allis drivers needed the patience of Job this year as it was almost impossible to drive north on Interstate 894 through the city for seven months due to work on the Zoo Interchange.
The busy northbound on-ramps closed April 1 at Greenfield, National and Lincoln avenues. As if that were not enough, a northbound zipper lane reduction at National Avenue caused backups and threw even more freeway traffic onto West Allis streets.
By year's end, the National Avenue on-ramp had reopened. However, the Greenfield and Lincoln avenue on-ramps will remain closed for many more months. Not only that, drivers now can't enter the freeway southbound at Greenfield, either.
Also, it's also tough to get off in West Allis if drivers are headed south. The major off-ramps at Lincoln and Greenfield avenues were both closed at year's end.
Thousands of volunteers come to raise church
Thousands of volunteers from all over the country converged on Greenfield in shifts all summer as they staged an old-fashioned church-raising.
The new Layton Avenue Baptist Church was substantially built this summer with volunteers. Builders for Christ, a national organization that helps churches that have shown themselves to be vibrant, gave a call for volunteers and thousands came to help. Some of the volunteers were skilled enough to build the wooden skeleton of the 27,000-square-foot church in 10 days. Others supplied the tons of labor needed for such major construction projects.
Layton Avenue Baptist has been part of Greenfield's fabric for 50 years. It needed a new church because it wanted to move out of the way of the $150 million 84South project along Layton Avenue.
The local congregation has been working on finishing the project since August. The congregation had hoped to celebrate Christmas in their new church, but some things were more expensive than anticipated. However, the new church is weather-tight and all it needs now is flooring, fixtures and to be cleaned up.
While some work on the new church, others pack up for the move that could be as early as February.
Six Points transformation plan applauded and approved
The year started auspiciously on the development front in West Allis as officials applauded a $62 million development proposal for the city’s Six Points area. Many viewed it as having the potential to spur a renaissance in that part of the city.
The proposal by the Mandel Group included 200 higher-end apartments and eight town houses, a specialty grocery store, a bistro, a brew pub, offices and commercial space.
The development is on a total of 13.3 acres on both sides of National Avenue at about 65th Street just west of the West Allis Farmers Market. In fact the development is dubbed The Market at Six Points.
City approvals rolled in as the year rolled on. As of December, the developer, the Mandel Group, anticipates groundbreaking next year.
Full emerald ash borer invasion reported
The emerald ash borer scourge has exploded in Greenfield, with city crews cutting down seven times as many trees as they did just two years ago, city forester Dennis Fermenich reported in June.
“It’s really raining havoc on our city, as elsewhere,” he said. The beetle that has denuded other states of their ash trees has now infested Milwaukee County, he said.
During the winter of 2015-16, about 150 infected trees have come down and another 150 sick trees are on the chopping block for this winter, he said.
Discovered in Greenfield only a couple of years ago, the emerald ash borer is now throughout the city. It will only get worse as the emerald ash borer kills every untreated ash tree, he said.
“I’ve spoken with foresters in Michigan and Illinois and they said the only ash left in their communities are under treatment. The rest are all gone,” Fermenich said. Those states were hit first by the beetle.