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feature article - september 2007

Downtown Ambassadors,
Milwaukee’s roving concierges

conciergeIN AN ERA of voice mail, electronic information boards and the like, it’s nice to find real people to talk to when you are touring an unfamiliar city.

Since 1998, Milwaukee’s Downtown Ambassadors have served as walking concierges, dispensing printed material and responding to the questions with knowledge that goes beyond basic information.

Downtown Business Improvement District 21 (BID #21), led by the city’s chief cheerleader, Beth Nicols, created the corps of Ambassadors. At first they roamed 120 blocks in the heart of downtown only on foot. Now, they can be seen on bicycles and a three-wheeled “chariot,” as well as staffing a bicycle-driven information kiosk and a large kiosk moved around the district by truck.

Since 2000, it is estimated that the Ambassadors have placed in visitors’ hands more than 4.5 million printed pieces, including the popular monthly issues of KEY Milwaukee.

Nicols notes that the Ambassadors also serve as extra eyes and ears for Milwaukee’s police and fire departments, helping to locate missing children and assisting motorists. “They are part of the reason that our downtown is one of the safest in the country,” she points out.

In addition to meeting the information needs of travelers and downtown residents and workers, the Downtown BID leads the effort to keep the heart of the city clean and attractive. A graffiti removal team removes 96% of the graffiti found downtown and the district hires outside contractors to remove the remaining, more difficult 4%. Clean Sweep Ambassadors are charged with sidewalk cleaning and a landscape crew tends to more than 250 planters and hanging baskets along Wisconsin Avenue, Old World 3rd Street and the RiverWalk.

“The programs of Downtown BID #21 have made downtown Milwaukee one of the cleanest, safest and friendliest downtowns in the country to live, work, and play,” says Nicols.  “Downtown Milwaukee has catapulted over the last decade and we’re glad to be a part of the momentum.”




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