Laura Wake Bray, Comm ’94, Grad ‘03
How do you transform an urban eyesore into a national model of sustainable development? If you’re Laura Bray, with patience, pluck and plenty of hard work.
Laura is executive director of Menomonee Valley Partners, a public-private partnership coordinating the redevelopment of Milwaukee’s 1,200-acre Menomonee River Valley. Situated just east of Miller Park and across the highway from Marquette’s campus, the site once was characterized by vacant rail yards and abandoned, decaying industrial buildings.
Now the Menomonee Valley is rapidly morphing into a vibrant center of commerce and recreation with expanding businesses like Palermo's Pizza and attractions such as the Harley-Davidson museum and Potawatomi Bingo Casino, commercial sites and the new Hank Aaron State Trail. Soon to come are new public parks, expanded river access, and bike and pedestrian bridges.
Halfway through its redevelopment, the valley already has won recognition from the Sierra Club as one of the 10 best projects in the United States, in large part because of its green infrastructure and sustainably designed buildings.
Laura’s community organizing and economic development skills have helped her create the strong public-private partnerships needed for the project’s success.
Laura loved that Marquette had such strong connections to Milwaukee, and she drew inspiration for her own career from the university’s Campus Circle Project during her undergraduate years. The initiative, which began in the early 1990s, invested money in the Avenues West neighborhood.
“Seeing Marquette ask fundamental questions about what it means to be an urban university shaped my interest in city development,” she says.