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While running to become Milwaukee’s mayor in 2022, Cavalier Johnson said he wants the city to reach one million people. 

“In this future I envision, we will have one million residents and many more peaks to our skyline,” Johnson said in a document posted to his campaign website. 

But Milwaukee’s population dropped from a peak of 741,324 in 1960 to 569,330 today.

At a November conference, Johnson and others debated ideas including changing zoning codes, converting old office buildings to housing and deploying bus rapid transit.

A city report says freeway development allowed people to move to new, larger houses in the suburbs. Milwaukee also lost numerous manufacturing jobs.

The Wisconsin Department of Administration projects Milwaukee will “gradually gain population” to reach a total of 627,400 in 2040. 

While the city’s population is far from 1 million, the county around it is expected to reach that size by 2035.


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Hope Karnopp / Wisconsin WatchReporting intern

Hope Karnopp joined Wisconsin Watch as a reporting intern in May 2022. She is a journalism major and is pursuing certificates in public policy and environmental studies at UW-Madison. Hope previously covered state politics as an intern for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She also works with the Daily Cardinal and hosts a radio segment about campus news for WORT-FM, which has been recognized by the Milwaukee Press Club.