Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

What’s the Future of Zillman Park?

Bay View park's future could be shaped by public at August 21st community meeting.

By - Aug 19th, 2019 10:52 am
Zillman Park before KinetIK construction. Photo by Dave Reid.

Zillman Park before KinetIK construction. Photo by Dave Reid.

A frequently-overlooked Bay View park is poised to get a significant upgrade, but what that upgrade looks like remains unclear.

A proposal sponsored by Alderman Tony Zielinski would allocate $500,000 to upgrade the city-owned Zillman Park at 2168 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. What shape those improvements take will be dictated in part by feedback from a community meeting to be held Wednesday, August 21st at 6 p.m. at St. Lucas Church (2605 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.).

The triangular park, bordered by E. Ward St., E. Archer Ave. and S. Kinnickinnic Ave., contains .7 acres of green space. Beyond benches and trees, the only amenities in the park are a Bublr Bikes docking station, the southernmost one in the system, a historical marker honoring Bay View’s immigrant industrial workers and the 12-foot-tall, welded-steel sculpture titled “Bud” by artist and former Bay View resident Carl Billingsley.

The park is named after Billingsley’s wife’s grandfather Erwin Zillman (1888-1970), who represented the area on the Common Council from 1948 to 1956 and 1958 to 1964 as well as serving as publisher of the Bay View Observer newspaper from 1934 to 1958 and authoring his own Bay View history book So You Will Know.

The improvements to the park will be funded by increased property tax revenue generated by New Land Enterprises‘ KinetiK Apartments. The 144-unit building, scheduled to open next year, will include Flour and Feed food hall on its first floor with a plaza overlooking the park.

New Land director Tim Gokhman told Urban Milwaukee in an interview he would like to find a design solution to attract not only parents and their children but adults to the park.

“Everyone we’ve spoken with in the neighborhood is in favor of activating the space,” said Gokhman. “The question of what the space actually is – is it a park or a plaza – has also come up, and it certainly drives the conversation. But in my mind, two things are certain. You can’t activate the space without making some changes to it, and, in order to activate it throughout the day and week, it needs to appeal to a broad array of people – families, professionals, young, old, etc.

“If possible, I think a water feature at Zillman would be perfect,” concluded Gokhman.

What do the activation experts at NEWaukee think? “I’m hoping the park is a destination and not just another green space that people walk through to get somewhere else,” said NEWaukee’s Jeremy Fojut, a Bay View resident. 

“I’d like to focus on things that aren’t one-use type of attractions. Also things that can be flexible enough to be used in four seasons,” said Fojut who also said programming was a key.

The city, under a proposal from the Department of City Development, would create a tax-incremental financing district to harvest the increased property tax revenue. State law permits districts to expend money on public infrastructure improvements within a half-mile of their boundaries. When the project costs are paid off, the new revenue would flow into the city’s general fund.

The Department of Public Works MKE Plays initiative will lead the design of the park. Korb + Associates Architects is leading the design of the KinetiK building, which includes constructing the food hall plaza on a vacated stretch of E. Archer Ave. bordering the park.

The city envisions removing the playground equipment at nearby Allis Street Park (2156 S. Allis St.) as part of the Zillman Park improvements. The equipment has been deemed “obsolete.”

The Common Council will review the funding proposal when it resumes its regularly scheduled meetings in September.

For more thoughts on what the park could become, follow Gokhman’s discussion on Twitter.

Community Meeting Details

Wednesday, August 21st
6:00 p.m.
St. Lucas Church – 2605 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Zillman Park


Archer Ave Plans

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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: What’s the Future of Zillman Park?”

  1. Virginia Small says:

    MKE Plays has done a good job of thoroughly engaging neighbors to help plan for upgrades to public spaces. Foundation Park on 37th & McKinley is one recent successful example.

    Of course, having a landscape architect involved in designing public spaces is crucial, so that the space effectively addresses multiple needs and goals, from basic human comfort to attractiveness to flexibility for programming.

    Here;s an article on some ways to improve public spaces.

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