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Public space design selected for Milwaukee’s Inner Harbor

Harbor District, Inc. announced the winner of the Take Me to the River public space design contest on January 12, with plans to build the first phase of the winning design during the summer of 2017.

The winning design team, Quorum Architects – Ayres Associates, created a compelling new plaza on Milwaukee’s Inner Harbor at the end of Greenfield Avenue, with views of the working port and downtown.

“We are excited to be a part of the team that will create a place which truly invites the public into this amazing yet elusive part of the city. The Harbor District is such an important and unique asset for Milwaukee – our project aims to show how thoughtful design in this setting can allow industry, urban life and freshwater ecologies to thrive simultaneously, all in a space we think would just be really great to simply be in,” said Jennifer Current of Quorum Architects.

As part of its work to spearhead redevelopment of the area around the Inner Harbor, the non-profit Harbor District, Inc. (HDI) plans to build the first phase of the winning design during the summer of 2017, with fundraising and construction for the second phase to follow. HDI is working with the Environmental Collaboration Office of the City of Milwaukee, the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works, and the Take Me to the River Steering Committee to advance the project.

“It was great to see the interest and excitement that the competition generated. We hope this is a first step to re-introducing Milwaukeeans to a fascinating part of the city,” noted HDI executive director Lilith Fowler.

Five teams were selected to participate in the Take me to the River competition. The selection committee felt each design had elements that would make for an interesting and engaging public space, but agreed that the Quorum Architects – Ayres Associates design most effectively balanced several project goals.

An anonymous online voter shared the following comment regarding their vote for the winning design, “the Quorum-Ayres proposal is an excellent middle ground between excessive public space, overly minimalist, or over-emphasis on education presented in some of the other designs.”

The Take Me to the River selection committee was made up of six members representing various expertise and/or connections to the Take Me to the River project site. The seventh “vote” on the selection committee was determined through an online public vote held in December, 2016, with 1,184 people casting votes.

The committee members were: Monique Charlier – Construction Professional with Rivet LLC, Carolyn Esswein – UWM School of Architecture and Urban Planning and Harbor District, Inc. Board Member, Jeremy Fojut – Newaukee, Val Klump – UWM School of Freshwater Sciences, José Pérez – Milwaukee Common Council District 12 Alderman and Harbor District, Inc. Board Member, Silvia Rodriguez – Riley Elementary School and Harbor District Resident.

“I’m excited to see a new public space develop as part of the Take Me to the River project. This new space will provide an opportunity for south side residents to visit and enjoy their waterfront, provide much needed green space, and help our community learn about the role water plays in our everyday lives.” said Alderman José Pérez, One of the selection committee members.

Many community members and stakeholders provided input to the project. The five participating teams that developed the innovative, thoughtful concepts were:

  • La Dallman Architects and Alfred Benesch Engineering
  • MKExTEN (Vetter Denk Architects, Ten X Ten, and Design Fugitives)
  • Quorum Architects – Ayres Associates
  • SmithGroupJJR and TKWA UrbanLab
  • UWM Inner Harbor Project Team (UWM, City as a Living Laboratory, Creative Lighting Design, SEH)

With the support of ECO City of Milwaukee, HDI won a $75,000 grant for the project from the Bloomberg Award for Partners for Places, a project of the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities. Matching funds were provided by the Brico Fund, Brookby Foundation, Fund for Lake Michigan, and the Zilber Family Foundation.

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Harbor District, Inc.

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