Jeramey Jannene

A Redesign for Cathedral Square

A recent UWM master's thesis plans for an improved Cathedral Square

By - Aug 28th, 2012 05:59 pm

As part of his Master’s thesis, recent UWM graduate Craig Huebner offered ideas on how to redesign Cathedral Square Park. He explored conceptual designs for the installation of a permanent cafe on the northeast corner of the park, as well as a permanent stage, streetcar station, bike sharing shelter, and interactive fountains. He also looked at adjustments to Jefferson Street and Kilbourn Avenue that would better connect the park to the neighborhood. Drawing from deep in the park’s past, he proposes re-installing an old-fashioned boardwalk — wood plank sidewalk — on the east edge of the park.

His ideas help illustrate how Cathedral Square Park could become a true town square, and a top-tier urban park. The designs are available in a photo gallery below, or in PDF format.

Craig writes…

My design for Cathedral Square Park is just one part of my larger thesis project entitled “NEXT STOP: Place making along the Milwaukee Streetcar route.” The focus of my thesis was identifying key opportunity areas along the proposed streetcar route and suggesting strategic development that the streetcar could support. These different development areas have the opportunity to not only make an economic impact, but also create great new places for Milwaukee residents, employees, and tourists.

One of these great places is the Cathedral Square area. I live within a block of this great urban place and with the possibility of a new streetcar stop adjacent to the park and creation of a new NID, Cathedral Square Park has the opportunity to become even greater. What is important in my mind for the redesign of the park is to not only retain the great events of the park (Jazz in the Park, Bastille Day, markets, etc.) but find ways to design the park to activate the park during non-event days.

What I hope my thesis project is able to accomplish is giving Milwaukee residents a design vision of what the streetcar can help create…I feel like Milwaukee residents are only looking at the “negatives” of the streetcar because they are uncertain about what positives the streetcar can create. In my mind, the streetcar should generate excitement for Milwaukee not just because of its positive economic impact, but also because it has the ability to connect great existing and new places within Milwaukee.

Cathedral Square Park is the subject of much debate because of a proposal for a neighborhood improvement district to fund improvements to it and Juneau Park. If you missed my piece on Cathedral Square Park last week, I explored changes I would like to see to the park. A number of commenters jumped in as well, offering their thoughts on the future of Milwaukee’s town square. I will review the intricacies of neighborhood improvement district proposal in my next piece.



Renderings & Plans

Categories: Real Estate

15 thoughts on “A Redesign for Cathedral Square”

  1. gleiss says:

    This is a great way to begin the conversation about recapturing great places and spaces, especially downtown. I think tying the idea of an improved square to the streetcar increases the desirability of the location and can expand the number of people who view/use the square. Now if only we could punch Jefferson street through to State and get MSOE to utilize or sell their adjacent sites…..

  2. Jeff Jordan says:

    I like the concept and the design. I’m not sure why the cafe is in the mix and why the bike sharing corral is so far from the Street Car stop, but the answer may be in the the thesis presentation

  3. Dave Fitzpatrick says:

    Cathedral Square remains a pivotal entertainment venue for downtown dwellers. An update to the park is needed if it expects to sustain its attractiveness to area residence–and keep pace with new developments along the lake front and Third Ward.

  4. Jesse Hagen says:

    A refurbishing of the park along with a bandshell would be a great addition to Cathedral square, with that said…

    Removing the boulevard from Kilbourn is a short-sighted plan, the space will eventually be built upon outside of Cathedral Square & we’ll have less green space to show for it. This will make the roadway less safe to peds crossing an effectively wider street, versus two smaller streets as existing.

    Also, what’s with the permanent cafe? I’m not against having some businesses in the parks, when there are no private options available. If there was demand for a cafe, wouldn’t have someone opened right across the street? The best way to activate the north end of the park would be to get MSOE to lease some space to a restaurant, cafe or anything that would diversify their building beyond classroom & library space.

    Finally, let’s get rid of the one-way streets in the area. This pushes the traffic speeds up right where there are many pedestrians, plus visitors to the area get confused easily. I work nearby & there are near accidents weekly because of confusion & excess speed.

  5. Greg Jay says:

    This plan has some virtues beyond those of the similar plan widely shared over the last few years by Jim Shields (was he the thesis director?).

    First, Shield’s bandshell is a poorly-conceived replica of the old courthouse. It looks like a barn covered in moss. We need a very contemporary design for the new structure at Cathedral Square, in line with the modernism of the Cathedral Square condo building, the Calatrava, etc.

    Second, no cafe. It would just further cut the park off from Kilbourn. One criticism of Shield’s drawings already is that they ignore the function of Kilbourn as a plaza when it is closed off, and when food and vendors occupy it. The north end of the park needs to remain open in vibrant ways to Kilbourn for these kinds of events.

  6. Frank says:

    I don’t know why so much emphasis is being put on this simple piece of green space. It is what it is. Green space. The only green space within the eastern part of downtown. I am still praying that the streetcar won’t be built. Out of all the areas that could benefit from a street car, the east town area is not one of them. Milwaukee extends farther than from the area that seems to always get the attention from our politicians.

    Our governments are so hellbent on monetizing every aspect of life Stop raising taxes on something that benefits only a few. If they need money for improvements, then let the city dip into their CAFR accounts. Those CAFR accounts have piles of unspent earnings from investments that were funded by tax dollars. Enough with the lies and manipulation and over taxation.

  7. Chris says:

    Frank must not get out much, what with all the hand wringing to do….

    The design does some nice things, but mostly rehashes the HGA plan. I tend to agree with Greg’s take, with one exception — while the Kilbourn side should be open to some degree, it needs definition so the park reads as a well-defined outdoor room. It could be an allee of trees, architectural markers similar in spirit to the columns seen in the thesis project, etc. One of the big flaws in the current patch of land is the way the park bleeds to the north. It’s hardly fitting for a signature civic park.

    While the cafe is a nice idea as it would create continuous activity in the park, I still argue that this job is, and can be, better served by better linking Jefferson to the park. There needs to be a seamless edge that connects park to street life in a pedestrian-friendly way. This has been talked about already in the form of pop-up bollards or a one block pedestrian street.

  8. Frank says:

    @ Chris – There’s no need to start with personal attacks. Everyone has an opinion and I’ll stand by mine. A park is a park. It is not an auditorium. I see more value in keeping it mainly as a park. But in this day and age people only recognize short term benefits. With an ever increasing ‘pavement’ of society, it is nice to hold on to a little piece of nature once and awhile.

  9. Jesse Hagen says:

    It’s too bad we can’t go back to the good ol’ days, right Frank? Wait, they also had activities in parks years ago, including beer gardens which you came out against on another article. I’m sure those were around before you were even born, so I’m not really sure how just having a plain, smallish piece of grass will really be any better, in the long or short run.

    Besides, do you really think that Cathedral Square is in any way ‘natural’? Even Lake Park was intentionally sculpted by Olmstead to its current form. Some natural features obviously still exist but Olmstead was not of the mind to let nature get in the way of his, very beautiful & effective, park plans.

  10. Frank says:

    @ Jesse – To future generations, we are the good ol’ days. I can just imagine what they will be saying. Something to the tune of “If only”.

    – “If only” our ancestors didn’t pave every square block in this city.
    – “If only” our ancestors cared about more than just short term profits.
    – “If only” our ancestors knew how to properly cultivate a civilization

    Like you have said… It’s just a plain smallish piece of grass. I agree. But there aren’t too many of them around anymore. Why do we need to transform this plain smallish piece of grass into a mecca of sorts? There are many venues throughout the city that could use the business that all these “festivals” attract. Sure there are a very small amount of business that benefit from this, but the rest of the city suffers. There are many businesses that offer outdoor seating to their establishment. Many are empty because people are gravitating towards these “festivals”. These festivals are not bringing in the tax revenue that our public officials proclaim they do. There are numerous theaters in this metro area that could use the business that Summerfest grabs up. Who benefits from that? Jazz in the park at Cathedral Square? What about going to a coffee house with outdoor seating with musicians playing there? Nope. Now they hurt because people who go to these festivals usually go home afterwards. Which translates into lost revenue for businesses that have to pay rent and property taxes.

  11. Stacy Moss says:

    This looks like it came out of Shields class. (the building is more or less in the same place.)

    BUT……Oh my god…… The pillars in this new design are just plain stupid. I mean seriously, the buildings that frame the park should be enough. The whole point of an urban pocket park is to let the city in.

    These doodads remind of the stuff you find on the top of wedding cakes. As Clint Eastwood once said, “A man has to know his limitations.”

  12. Jesse Hagen says:

    Frank, are you really complaining about this on the former grounds of Milwaukee’s courthouse, really? If you haven’t picked it up by now, things change. This park was long ago a courthouse & will soon have a small bandshell like building on it as well. This is not unlike many other parks in the Milwaukee area.

    I’m hearing from you that you really care about the amount of park space, I can understand that idea. To me it comes down to quantity vs quality. Jazz in the Park isn’t going anywhere, adding a permanent bandshell building will be much better than having a tent up in the square for half the year. Then, having a dilapidated fountain there during the other half.

    Honestly, it’s hard to read if you are actually familiar with these spaces at all, have you ever been to Cathedral Square in the last 10 years? There doesn’t seem to be a genuine amount of familiarity or specificity in your comments, it seems to be a general screed against change & development. Even the tax rant doesn’t seem to recognize the added value that these events give to the neighboring businesses, residences & city in general.

  13. Frank says:

    @ Jesse – You are not looking at the bigger picture here. All the festivals in this city are taking away from legitimate businesses that pay rent and property taxes. I understand that a few businesses surrounding the park will benefit from all the festivals at Cathedral Square. I don’t understand how it would benefit residences. I live downtown and realized that all these festivals have pretty much become a nuisance. Streets constantly blocked off, drunkards rampaging around, and the constant noise from all the music. Residents deserve to have to peace and quiet once and awhile. But lately (during the summertime) its festival after festival after festival. All created on the premise that it will bring in tax revenue. The only thing I am noticing is that property taxes are going up. All for what? To garner some minuscule tax revenue from extra beer sales? Give me a break. There are many other areas that are politicians need to focus on. They need to stop conducting business like a bunch a high schoolers and start embracing the real world. I am sure that you will say that I should just move if I am not happy here. Which I will. Enough is enough. The leaders of Milwaukee have absolutely no idea how to cultivate the urban area. It’s sad. Milwaukee could be such a great city, but its failing miserably. There really is no other city like Milwaukee in this country. This city could really stand above the rest. But on a brighter note… DRINK UP !! CHEERS EVERYONE !! That’s what Milwaukee will only be known for… a city of drunkards. To bad most of the breweries folded or else they would really be raking in the dough.

  14. Jesse Hagen says:

    Out with the old, in with the new. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I’ve found that you’re usually better off where you’re welcomed & comfortable than trying to stake your claim in a hostile environment.

    I wish you the best Frank, I had lived a couple blocks away from Cathedral Square & moved myself for other reasons. I still really enjoy the area & am there often; I’m currently in a quieter corner of the upper east side. Hopefully you can find somewhere where you’re happy, obviously where you are isn’t working. There’s no sense is keeping yourself miserable & bringing down everyone around you too.

  15. Frank says:

    “Our with the old, in with the new” Really? Isn’t that the motto Detroit used? (Another once great city). It’s nice to see that you agree that area the is a hostile and noisy environment. There are many others that also agree. Hence the migration out of this city. But if that’s what this city wants, then they will have to learn the hard way. FYI – It’s not ‘myself’ that makes life miserable, it’s the attitudes that have a abundance of disrespect for others. One day you will grow up and find out for yourself.

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