Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

SmithGroup Will Design Harbor District Riverwalk

Survey underway to solicit community feedback.

By - Apr 30th, 2021 04:11 pm
Komatsu South Harbor Campus rendering. Rendering by Eppstein Uhen Architects.

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

The City of Milwaukee selected SmithGroup to design the largest one-time addition to the Milwaukee RiverWalk.

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.

“This is not going to be like our typical riverwalk Downtown,” said Department of City Development riverwalk project manager Alyssa Remington in presenting the selected design group to the board of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee on April 15th. SmithGroup was selected from 10 applicants who responded to a request for proposals.

The new riverwalk segment is expected to more closely resemble a multi-use trail. It will run from Harbor View Plaza at the east end of E. Greenfield Ave. south to S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

“We feel confident that SmithGroup going forward will give us what we want and, more importantly, what the neighborhood really wants,” said Remington. An online community survey is currently underway.

“We are excited to see what they come up with for a concept,” said Remington. She said the company has been requested to come up with multiple initial design concepts. But one thing has already been discussed: a potential futsal court south of the Komatsu office building in a 90-foot-long area. Futsal is similar to soccer, but played on a smaller field that is often a hard surface.

The city normally covers up to 70% of the cost of building privately-owned riverwalk segments in exchange for a public easement. But the new inner harbor segment is different in many ways. One, it’s much longer. A normal segment is only 300 feet. Two, the city will own it. The city and a subsidiary of We Energies own the underlying land.

It also must accommodate a number of unique elements. “There is a railroad [line] that bisects the site,” said Remington. “We are working to get an at-grade crossing.” It also must wrap around a small, waterfront parcel that is not part of the South Harbor Campus development.

It will be the first segment constructed under the riverwalk design standards adopted for the Harbor District in May 2020. Under the 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 dock walls or a naturalized edge.

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. The former Solvay Coke parcel is nearby at 311 E. Greenfield Ave. The Komatsu manufacturing building is being constructed there. 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.

Officials from Harbor District, Inc. and Komatsu joined city officials on the selection committee.

Remington said SmithGroup, a national design firm, has nine employees in its Milwaukee office. It was one of the firms that bid on designing Harbor View Plaza, but its design was not selected.

“This is super exciting,” said RACM board member Monique Charlier. “I can’t wait to see what this evolves into.”

“You have worked your whole career for this,” said board member Frances Hardrick to Remington.

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.

The design is to be completed within six months of the contract award according to the RFP. Construction would then commence. Komatsu expects to complete its work by spring 2022.

Riverwalk Design Standards

South Harbor Campus Renderings

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