Tenants, locals grapple with losing historic 4th Street homes

Jeff Gardner moved into his one-bedroom apartment 20 years ago. He can remember looking across the river from his front porch on South Fourth Street East, a view that then featured more of the Rattlesnake Mountains, and less of the glassy high rises now prominent on the downtown skyline.

“This was kind of a backwater spot,” Gardner, 61, recalled. “There were hobo camps down in the ditch by the river, the old railroad. It was kind of a scary place and people didn’t want to come down this way, but that made it affordable.”

The river trail system cleaned up the area, he said, and he helped plant the steep edge of the property with native plants and grasses, which he salvaged from the subdivisions popping up in Grant Creek, uprooting the plants before the backhoes got there. Now, he said it’s a trendy place to live.

The brick apartment building, built in 1908 for Milwaukee Railroad workers, has seen better days, he admits. The stone steps are chipped into a jagged bevel from a century of footsteps and snow shovels, and the three matching rental houses next door are badly in need

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