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Urban Cheese

Ahhh … the power of cheese. Evidenced by the growing development of farmstead cheeses on Wisconsin dairy farms, combined with the conversion of commodity to the more profitable (and tastier) specialty cheese produced at existing dairy plants, that glorious food we call cheese has been boosting the state’s rural economy for years.

Now, cities are getting in on the action. Last week, a developer in Milwaukee announced plans to create a $7.2 million, four-story building with a cheesemaking plant on the street level in the Walker’s Point area at 538 S. 2nd St.

The 30,000-square-foot building would be developed on a 6,400-square-foot vacant lot by Kaufmann LeSage LLC. The first floor would be leased to Clock Shadow Creamery, a cheese plant and retail shop operated by Master Cheesemaker Bob Wills, well-known in the state for operating his own cheese-incubator company at Cedar Grove Cheese near Plain.

The proposed Clock Shadow Creamery would include public viewing areas and a cheesemaker apprenticeship program. The cheese plant’s name is a reference to the nearby four-sided clock at Rockwell Automation Inc.’s headquarters (thanks to Milwaukee Daily Photo for the above image).

The Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel reported last week that occcupying the second and third floors of the proposed development would be three health care providers: Aurora Walker’s Point Community Clinic, which provides free primary and preventive care; The Healing Center, which offers support services for sexual abuse and assault survivors; and CORE/El Centro, which provides stress management, exercise classes and other health services. The top floor of the building remains available. Three non-profit organizations and two small for-profit companies have expressed interest in the space, according to Kaufmann LeSage.

The project got a boost last Thursday, as the city’s Redevelopment Authority unanimously approved a $900,000 EPA brownfield cleanup loan to help pay for environmental cleanup work at the site, which was once used as a scrap yard and is considered to be contaminated. At a hearing last week, four people emailed objections to the plan, while eight others sent in letters of support.

Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel writes this morning that the objecting emails mostly involved residents who didn’t want to see nightclubs removed from the neighborhood. But as one clever reader, named “EvilLiberal” wrote in a comment on a story published on the proposal last week, the development and its cheesemaking facility could be an answer to the neighborhood’s reputation:

“Horror!! Shock!! Terror!! We MUST unite to prevent this travesty of family values to infest our streets! Milk maids everywhere! Milking in public!! And Maiding!! It will be chaos! All those lewd cows doing what cows do, and no shovels! Where are the strip joint proprietors when you need them?”

Sounds to me that cheese is just what this neighborhood needs.
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