A new public space in Milwaukee’s Harbor District officially opened for the south side community on July 29, at a ribbon cutting ceremony that was attended by a crowd of more than two hundred local residents.

Located on the inner harbor at the eastern end of Greenfield Avenue, the Harbor View Plaza includes a lookout tower, a handicapped-accessible kayak and canoe launch, and seating areas to watch the ships at Port Milwaukee and the unique view of the Milwaukee skyline. A water circulation and filtration system in the plaza captures stormwater, and also provides a unique children’s play area with shallow water and pumps.

“One hundred years ago, we would’ve been surrounded by some of the heaviest and dirtiest industries you can possibly imagine,” Lilith Fowler, Executive Director of the Harbor District. “Even just 10 years ago, you would not have seen any particular sign that things were going to be changing in the area. Now, we have UWM School of Freshwater Sciences doing state of the art research, Komatsu Mining will be coming soon along with up to one thousand jobs. Freshwater Plaza and other new developments are on the horizon. And we are making progress on restoring wetlands removing decades of contamination.”

Harbor View Plaza was planned with extensive neighborhood input and a public design competition over the course of 2016. It responded to the lack of public access to the waterfront in the industrial area at the heart of Milwaukee, and to the lack of park space on the near south side.

“Harbor View Plaza does something very important, it connects people with our waterways,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in a statement. “We share a great asset here on America’s Fresh Coast, and whether it is recreation, education, or transportation, I hope everyone can appreciate the essential role of water in our lives.”

Neighborhood business anchor Rockwell Automation, just two blocks away, was a lead supporter of the project.

“The dedication of the Harbor View Plaza is just one more way that Milwaukee is demonstrating its onward journey to progress for having an ever more vibrant community,” Blake Moret, Chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation. “This plaza will provide a unique recreational and educational destination for our employees, and members of the Greater Milwaukee community and region.”

The plaza resulted from a community engagement effort called “Take Me To the River.” Initially spearheaded by the Environmental Collaboration Office – City of Milwaukee (ECO). The project was supported by the Fund for Lake Michigan, the Brico Fund, the Brookby Fund, the Zilber Family Fund.

“The folks who believed in this neighborhood where the folks that lived here. This plaza is going to provide them the opportunity to get to the beautiful waterfront,” Rocky Marcoux, Commissioner for the Department of City Development. “The city is going to be investing $15 million in the extension of the Riverwalk, which is 25 year success story spanning three mayors. It’s a continuity of public policy and investment.”

Harbor District is a non-profit organization created in 2014 to achieve a world-class redevelopment of Milwaukee’s harbor that sets the standard for how waterfronts work – environmentally, economically, and socially for the next century.

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Lee Matz