Future of the Harbor District
Community-engaged plan could transform 1,000 urban acres, nine miles of waterfront.
A year ago the Milwaukee Harbor District began is mission of “leading the charge to reimagine – and then rebuild” 1,000 acres of former industrial property including over nine miles of waterfront in the Milwaukee River estuary south of downtown.
Forty percent of the land is publicly owned; with 13 percent of the land being vacant. Despite the miles of waterfront, there is currently only one public access point.
Over the summer and fall the district conducted community meetings, bus, boat and bike tours and other activities to engage citizens in the process, and did so in a resolutely bilingual way, producing all materials in English and Spanish.
On October 26th and 27th, two “Harbor District Water and Land Use Plan Community Input Meetings,” were held at the studios of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee and then at the UWM Graduate School of Freshwater Sciences, 600 E. Greenfield Ave.
Dozens of attendees were at the UWM session, where staffed stations were set up to discuss “Issues and Opportunities,” (Asuntos Y Oportunidades).
- Improving the Environment
- Open Space and Public Access
- Land Use
- Working Together
The staff appears to have done its homework for the project. For example, three north-south bicycle route alternatives were presented for consideration.
Attendees received a “Harbor District WaLUP Community Discussion Worksheet,” which, unfortunately, did not tell us that “WaLUP” stands for “Water and Land Use Plan.”
The worksheet asked attendees ranging from local business and property owners to the “just curious,” for their (open-ended) opinions on the five things they feel the district could do to make Milwaukee a better place in the future.
The visitors were also asked their opinions of future uses of various segments of the massive property. What should the land use mix be? How do we improve access for all users (including boaters and bikers)? How can we bring back marshes and wildlife? What kinds of recreational opportunities should future generations have here?
Staff members at the various stations were engaging and well-informed. All appeared to either be well trained in public communications or just plain naturals.
The setting of the event, at the east end of E. Greenfield Ave., is in the heart of the district, and the new building offers excellent views of Milwaukee’s unknown waterfront. This is post-industrialism of the most recent vintage; traces of the monumental coal piles that once dominated the south side of the street can still be seen. The derelict Milwaukee Solvay Coke site still has plenty of ruins to poke around.
Yet just blocks to the west, new development continues to race through Walker’s Point, including some within the district boundaries. Within days, S. Barclay St. will once again connect to Greenfield for the first time in decades, offering an easterly alternative to S. 1st St., and access to the considerable street grid to the northeast.
Coming Up Next
- Winter 2016/2017: WaLUP released for review
- Winter 2016: Report to the Community
- Spring 2017: Implementation
Photos from the Event
- Plenty of Horne: “Harbor Area Will be Redesigned” Urban Milwaukee, July 2015.
- “Creating a Working Waterfront for the 21st Century” presentation.
- Studio Gang presentation from 2015 design charrette.