How to Improve Cathedral Square
What would make Milwaukee's town square better?
Cathedral Square Park may be as close to a town square as Milwaukee has. The park hosts a wide variety of events, ranging from a weekly farmer’s market to an annual festival celebrating French culture. It’s perhaps best known for Jazz in the Park, its weekly concert series from June through September. Nor does the square lack for historical significance. Before it was a park it was home to Milwaukee’s first courthouse, and the site from which runaway slave Joshua Glover was freed from jail.
The park is a prime topic for conversation today because of a proposal to create a neighborhood improvement district to pay for improvements to the park and, of course, the Sue Black firing, which has focused attention on the fate of all our parks. But before even considering the intricacies of the proposed plan (fear not, I will do so in a future article), I think it’s wise to step back and consider what kind of park we want it to be.
Personally, I would love to see the park play host to as many events as possible, like a true town square. Events that neighborhood residents see as a great amenity, but that also draw in people from across the region. Additionally, and somewhat selfishly as a store owner in the area, I would like to see Cathedral Square serve as a gathering place that’s well-designed to generate activity for businesses in the area, drawing crowds who patronize the restaurants and bars or stroll by the shops within a block or two of the square.
Long-term plans for the space as a legitimate town square could also include a number of tweaks to how the park interacts with the area around it. Better utilizing Jefferson Street as a part-time pedestrian street would be a wise step. Automatic Rising Bollards could be installed on the edges of Wells St and Kilbourn Ave to close the street to automobile traffic on weekend nights, better connecting the park and businesses on the west side of the street. Additionally, attention should be paid to how the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist (from which the park draws its name) connects with the park. Installing special brick pavers on a small section of Jackson St. and removing a tree or two could yield a much better connection between the iconic church and park.
Those are my initial thoughts. What are yours? Please share your comments. The resulting discussion could lead to a much improved Cathedral Square Park. It’s a chance to make a good town square a great one.