Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Who Wants To Design Harbor Riverwalk?

City seeks designer for 0.75-mile Harbor District segment bordering Komatsu site.

By - Mar 2nd, 2021 07:47 pm
Komatsu South Harbor Campus rendering. Rendering by Eppstein Uhen Architects.

Komatsu South Harbor Campus rendering. Rendering by Eppstein Uhen Architects.

The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee is looking for a designer on what will be one of the most significant sections of the Milwaukee RiverWalk.

RACM is soliciting bids, via a request for proposals (RFP), for a designer to create a “gritty, green, real” riverwalk segment running approximately three-fourths of a mile from the eastern end of E. Greenfield Ave. to S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

It will be the first segment constructed under the riverwalk design standards adopted for the Harbor District in May. The 4,300-foot segment will border the eastern edge of the $285 million Komatsu Mining South Harbor Campus, running along Milwaukee’s inner harbor.

Under the design standards, the riverwalk should be a 15-foot-wide corridor with a mix of hardscape pavement and natural features. The standards also call for at least one tree every 40 feet and only native plants, with at least 10 percent of the total square footage reserved for landscaping elements. Pavement is required to slope away from the water to prevent runoff.

The design standards also require at least one “upland habitat” or “aquatic habitat” item in each segment. That includes doubling the amount of landscaping, adding pollinator gardens, bat boxes or birdhouses for upland items or adding “fish habitat hotels” (underwater structures to support fish migration), waterside planters, waterfowl connections between land and water, perforated dockwalls or a naturalized edge.

The city, as part of a tax incremental financing district, allocated $15 million for the Komatsu segment project, including design and contingency costs. The construction budget for the riverwalk segment is $11 million.

It would be built on a formerly city-owned parcel at 401 E. Greenfield Ave., where a 170,000-square-foot office building is rising and the former Solvay Coke parcel at 311 E. Greenfield Ave., where the Komatsu building is being constructed. The two properties, totaling 59 acres, form a triangular shape bordering E. Greenfield Ave. to the north, the inner harbor to the southeast and the Canadian Pacific rail line on the west.

The design is not without its challenges. For one, the only public access will be at its terminus at Kinnickinnic and Greenfield avenues. The northern terminus is Harbor View Plaza park. Two, it might not be contiguous. A Union Pacific rail line bisects the site, and the RFP notes permission has yet to be granted to cross the line. Three, a small, privately-owned rear parcel (401R E. Greenfield Ave.) near the Union Pacific line needs to be circumnavigated, but plans should be made for its future inclusion in the riverwalk.

The ownership structure is also unique. Most of the riverwalk system is privately owned, but publicly accessible through an easement. The Komatsu segment will be publicly owned, as the city retained the waterfront portion of its parcel. The southern segment will be owned by the city, but sits atop land owned by We Energies. The ownership structure was created to shield Komatsu from any future liability issues arising from what is a federally-designated Superfund site.

Proposals are due March 25th at 11 a.m. The city anticipates picking a designer on April 15th. The design is to be completed within six months of the contract award. Construction would then commence. Komatsu expects to complete its work by spring 2022.

Riverwalk Design Standards

South Harbor Campus Renderings

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