O’Reilly’s… Oh, Really?

Reposted from Wauwatosa Patch. 

By Bobby Pantuso, alderman

Recently, you may have noticed that the Blockbuster building on 61st Street and North Avenue became vacant. Many people wondered what might be coming next.

As it turns out, it is an auto parts store.

Everyone living in East Tosa has their own vision of what they would like North Avenue to look like, to be like, to feel like. My own vision for North Avenue starts with… well, North Avenue.

Not the one of today but the one from 30 years ago, when I was a kid growing up in East Tosa and hanging out on and frequenting the shops on North Avenue.

The second infusion to my vision of North Avenue is Brady Street on the East Side of Milwaukee; a walkable stretch of urban street filled with eclectic shops. Merge those together and you get a taste of MY vision.

Putting everyone’s vision together and producing a common vision was no small task. Through the efforts of many, over a period of a few years, a great document was formed.

That document sits in my home office, and I commonly refer to it as “The Game Plan.” I refer to it frequently. I’ve printed copies and mailed them to people. I’ve linked to it in emails more times than you can imagine. I have shared it.

As I look through the game plan I see myself walking down North Avenue, stopping, shopping, talking, people watching. It is where I want to be and I want to share it. We share because we are proud. “Here try this cake I made… Try this coffee I bought… walk down this street I helped create.

North Avenue needs to be not just a street but a place and a destination. There needs to be a look, a feel, a sense, a place we share.

Many East Tosans wondered what “the plan” called for. It quickly became known that the next occupant of the Blockbuser site might be a national chain auto parts store…sigh. Really? That’s the best you could do?… sigh.

Then as we REALLY thought about it we envisioned the auto parts store we already have just two blocks away. The parking lot is covered in oil and usually trash. People are there at all hours with the hood up, filling fluids, changing sparkplugs, batteries. They try starting their cars, they rev the engine, they play their music loud while they do so. They loiter…..sigh.

It has become apparent that we are getting this auto parts store, the lease has been signed and there is no turning back. It is up to us now to stop the parking lot from becoming an outdoor auto shop, an eyesore.

What if this becomes a place we avoid? What if we start to avoid the places nearby? What if we are no longer proud and we don’t want to share?

This was never in my vision. It wasn’t in anybody’s.