Bart Griepentrog, the Planning & Development Director for the Village of Shorewood, embodies New Urbanist principles in his life and work. Having never owned a car, he was drawn to life in Milwaukee and a position in neighboring Shorewood for their walkability and urban character. He takes in all that Milwaukee has to offer—from its beer gardens to its annual Riverwest 24 bike ride with his team, the “Champagne Diet”—and at the height of the pandemic, he and his friends even turned a nearby boulevard median into a public “shared space” that is still used regularly today.
Bart was first exposed to the CNU Charter while working on his history degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It made a big impact on him and set the stage for his future, connecting experiences from his childhood on a fifth-generation Dodge County dairy farm near Mayville, Wisconsin, to his life’s journey and future experiences.
In his first four years after college—before returning to UW-Milwaukee for his master’s in urban planning—Bart saw and felt the many forms urbanism takes. He first worked in Mayville at a gas station to save money for grad school while volunteering at the Mayville Historical Society. There he saw Mayville as an important small-town hub amongst and sustaining the surrounding agricultural and rural areas.
During this time after his undergraduate degree, Bart’s uncle who lived in Milwaukee encouraged him to apply for a job at Executive Director, Inc. working for The Movement Disorder Society. This international organization took Bart to Europe, Japan, and a variety of places where he saw the value of fully functioning walkable cities, towns, and villages built on interconnected networks accessible by public transportation. It was through this exposure that Bart knew he had to go back to school for a master’s in urban planning.
Each of Bart’s experiences added another layer that drove his passion for bettering the urban experience. While in grad school, which included an abroad program studying sustainability in Copenhagen, Bart had an internship with the City of West Allis, which eventually led to his role as Senior Planner. Bart considers his time in West Allis invaluable and learned a tremendous amount about the public-private process, infill development, and planning.
An opportunity then surfaced for a position in the Village of Shorewood, where Bart works today. He was attracted partly because it embodied so many of the qualities that New Urbanism and his past experiences brought him to look for: the village’s walkability (its sidewalks and slow streets); its location adjacent to Milwaukee and Lake Michigan; its access to the Oak Leaf Trail, bike lanes, and public transportation; the housing diversity (including what Bart considers the “missing middle”); the strong street grid with a vibrant, central corridor; and the historical architecture and urban fabric. His 20-minute bike ride to work from his downtown Milwaukee apartment guarantees that exercise is part of his daily routine.
Bart regularly attends CNU’s annual congress where he enjoys both topical debates and practical information, and this past year he spoke in Oklahoma City about parking reforms in Shorewood. He also shared that the Village is currently working on a commercial zoning code update, which will include form-based principles.
By Pat Algiers, CNU-A, CNU Wisconsin Board Member