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A generational opportunity: Design plans unveiled for extension of Milwaukee’s Harbor District Riverwalk

As economic development and progress continues to spur throughout the Harbor District, the Department of City Development (DCD) unveiled on November 4 the proposed design renderings for the Riverwalk extension planned for the growing neighborhood.

The Harbor District Riverwalk is a redevelopment project located south of Harbor View Plaza in Milwaukee’s Harbor District. At close to three quarters of a mile in length, the project is a generational opportunity to build the largest new section of Milwaukee’s overall Riverwalk system.

“Our waterways are a great natural resource, and as we add connections to the water, we celebrate this asset. Milwaukee’s Riverwalks have become centers of commerce and recreation that add to the vitality of the city,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson. “I believe in the power of partnerships, and that’s what the Harbor District Riverwalk is all about. Through the efforts of City government, local businesses and organizations, and residents that call our waterfronts home, the Harbor District Riverwalk will add value to the neighborhood and city’s waterways for decades to come.”

The future public space will provide recreational, transportation, and environmental benefits to residents, employees, and visitors in the area, and will showcase the successful coexistence of commerce, community space, and ecological restoration.

Adjacent to the new Komatsu Mining Headquarters, the future Riverwalk is expected to break ground in early 2023. The City of Milwaukee has committed $14.5 million to design and construct this stretch of Riverwalk. The site plans were prepared by SmithGroup and will be considered by the City Plan Commission on Monday, November 7.

“Moving our operations in Milwaukee to the Harbor District has allowed us to welcome in members of the public and engage with our community like never before,” said John Koetz, President, Komatsu Surface Mining. “We are so excited to see that continue to grow with the creation of the public Riverwalk, and commend the city and Harbor District for their work to open up this important public waterfront and increase access for all of the community.”

The Harbor District Riverwalk will include The Node project that will create 3,000 square-feet of new aquatic habitat with new landscaping and native plants. Stairs and ADA-accessible ramps will provide all individuals the opportunity to access the edge and “touch” the water. Other aquatic habitat measures proposed for the Harbor District Riverwalk include log lunkers, a fish crib structure (sunken shipping container filled with rock and woody materials), and habitat brush fascines.

“The significant momentum in the Harbor District is creating exciting new opportunities for residents, businesses, and workers. The Department of City Development continues working to expand and improve Milwaukee’s Riverwalk system, and the Harbor District extension is the latest example,” said Milwaukee City Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump. “With the leadership of Mayor Johnson and the partnership of Komatsu, the Harbor District, and many engaged Milwaukeeans, we are offering more educational opportunities in the harbor, promoting equity on our waterfronts, and allowing our youth to experience everything Milwaukee has to offer.

The project will also include one shipping container style building that will house accessible bathrooms and provide a shaded stage for daily use. The Harbor View Plaza Extension on the north end of the site will have integrated signage that leads users into the space, serving as a portal to the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk project was originally proposed in the Department of City Development’s Harbor District Water and Land Use Plan, as part of the City of Milwaukee’s Comprehensive Plan.

“A decade ago, the community asked for more equitable access to the waterfront, and this project embodies that. Milwaukee Harbor District incorporated the community’s ideas and suggestions into the plans being reviewed by the City Plan Commission. We are excited to be advancing a design that not only incorporates features like public restrooms and areas for community partners to use, but one that is beautiful, welcoming, and accessible to everyone in our community,” said Tia Torhorst, CEO of Harbor District and Director of Business Improvement District #51.

The project will be the second Harbor District Riverwalk to be publicly-accessible and operational. This year, the River1 mixed-used development opened the first Riverwalk in the Harbor District to the public, with a new, riverfront restaurant that recently opened. The City of Milwaukee approved $3.4 million for that publicly-accessible Riverwalk and associated dockwall work.

Since its inception in 1993, the Riverwalk has operated along both sides of the Milwaukee River, from the site of the former North Avenue Dam, through Downtown and the Historic Third Ward to Lake Michigan. Now, it is expanding throughout the Harbor District along the Kinnickinnic River, with plans for future growth and development.

The system is a public-private partnership between riverfront property owners and the City of Milwaukee. In exchange for permanent public access, the City provides financial assistance for the construction of the private Riverwalk improvements. Since its inception, property values along the Riverwalk have climbed by more than $1.5 billion.

© Render

SmithGroup

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