New mural on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive depicts beloved faculty member Welford Sanders

A crowd gathered on February 23, 2024 to commemorate a bold new mural in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood. The subject of the mural by Terrell Morgan – Ego the Artist is longtime SARUP faculty member and acclaimed urban planner, Welford Sanders, and his impactful legacy.

Carolyn Esswein (Associate Professor and Co-Chair, Department of Urban Planning) was among the community stakeholders who spoke at the ceremony. She reflected on the tremendous changes that Sanders catalyzed, tracing their work together back to the 1990s.

“He came to me, and we looked at a plan to redevelop North Avenue as the Bronzeville area. That’s where it all started,” said Esswein. “We worked on several revitalization visions over the years, and in 2013, he said ‘we’ve done a lot; we’ve had 40-some million invested through this work, but I want to look at underutilized sites and vacant buildings on King Drive.’”

That led to the development of the first community design and development charette, a process that would be repeated 13 times on various projects throughout the city. To date, the MLK and Bronzeville charettes have resulted in more than $400 million in existing and ongoing investments.

“But that isn’t the number that would matter most to Welford,” Esswein added. “The numbers that mattered most to him were the number of people living in the new housing units, the number of new businesses, the number of new jobs, and the profound impact on the neighborhood.”

Alderwoman Milele Coggs spoke about the enduring impact Sanders has on the people who continue to help revitalize the district. She proudly calls it the best King Drive in the nation.

“Although Mr. Sanders is no longer with us, so many of those who stood shoulder to shoulder with him are,” said Coggs. “We continue to build it, but we already have it. Of the 900-plus King Drives in the nation, I challenge you to show me one that has been invested in as much as ours. Mr. Sanders invested at the time so people could see the beauty that we now see, to see the possibilities that we now see.”

Her hope is that when people come down King Drive, they will continue to be reminded of the contribution that Sanders has had Bronzeville and the city.

Welford was a member of the Urban Planning faculty at UWM for more than 20 years. He taught practice-based courses related to community planning, development, and real estate, influencing hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students. He inspired students to explore the real estate and development side of planning and become future leaders of our city.

The mural is located at 2767 North MLK Jr. Drive, just steps away from Sanders’s former office.