In the economic study of suburbs it seems that the essential elements of these type of communities are their land values.
Shorewood's “economy” must begin with a view of land values. Perhaps land is more successfully evaluated by the free market than any other element of the economy at any given moment.
Community land, especially waterfront land tends to be in highest demand and therefore claims relatively high prices.
Many homes built in Shorewood as early a hundred years ago were not only owned by families of upper income, but many of them were copies of homes of the European wealthy and aristocracy over several centuries.
Many of these status homes have been maintained and some restored to the extent that they remain among the most expensive in Shorewood today, signs of status and stability.
Where home and land values are fairly stable, the values of the homes contributes to the value of the land, be it even the slightest factor when considering the value presented by the created “location” that these values represent.
Homes are not only durable and usable products but the most expensive ones give a visible status and indicate in their very occupancy the status of the families that live there. This observation relates more to property on the East side of Shorewood than elsewhere in the community.
Oakland, an avenue that slices through Shorewood from South to North reveals other economic factors mostly unrelated to the East side of Shorewood, but not unaffected by these East side factors of status.
Oakland Avenue was created in the “street car” era, extending the city of Milwaukee features into what is now Shorewood through this form of transportation.
Although many wealthy homes were lined up along streets in Milwaukee before the street car appeared there, people of higher status avoided street-car served streets after that for various reasons.
Therefore, Oakland Avenue began to serve apartment dwellers who would have access to the city by this form of transportation, before the extensive use of the car.
Some small commercial shops were attracted at the street car stops. It was not unusual to see such businesses as the corner drug store or the corner grocery store at these corners where the street cars stopped.
The land values, although relatively high were not as high on Oakland Avenues as they where on the East side of Shorewood. Developers attempted to create higher land values by incorporating commercial on the ground floor level and providing walk-up apartments at the levels above.
The economic status that Shorewood provided during this time contributed to the demand of these type of apartment and ground floor commercial developments in many cases and tended somewhat to increase land values along the street car route. After the disappeance of the streetcar, land values here even declined somewhat, not solely due to this transportation factor.
The history of Shorewood has therefore been one of relatively high land values for these and other economic reasons. High land values is an important factor and in understanding Shorewood's economic base.
(More to come).
* Based on my ongoing economic studies of Shorewood and similar suburbs.