Jeramey Jannene
Friday Photos

Cathedral Square’s New Frame

Streetscaping project aims to beautify park, support community events.

By - Nov 19th, 2021 04:55 pm
New pavers at Cathedral Square Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

New pavers at Cathedral Square Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

One of downtown Milwaukee’s premier parks is receiving an upgrade.

Construction work, led by JCP Construction, is underway to “Frame the Square” at Cathedral Square Park. A crew installed the first new pavers this week, part of creating an expanded, durable sidewalk intended to beautify the park and support the many events the park hosts.

Cathedral Square fills a full city block, bordered by E. Kilbourn Ave., N. Jackson St., E. Wells St. and N. Jefferson St. Pre-pandemic, the park hosted a weekly music series, Jazz in the Park, the Bastille Days festival and a number of other events throughout the year. The prior configuration resulted in trampled grass, mud and scattered gravel on the park’s edges.

Cathedral Square Friends and Milwaukee Downtown, Business Improvement District #21 are leading the project, backed by $1.85 million in tax incremental financing support from the adjacent Cathedral Place office building TIF district. Created in 2002, the district is overperforming initial estimates and generating excess incremental property tax revenue. In early 2020, the Common Council approved amending the district to contribute $7.75 million to the underperforming Century City district over five years and $1.8 million to streetscaping. Under state law, TIF districts can be used to fund public infrastructure improvements within a half mile of the district boundaries. State law requires districts to close within 27 years.

Unhealthy perimeter trees are being replaced and additional trees added, with protective wells added around each base. Many of those bases are now visible, although the new trees have yet to arrive. Benches, bicycle racks and garbage cans are also being added.

The nonprofit Cathedral Square Friends privately raised $40,000 for hanging flower baskets in the park over the past four years. The all-volunteer friends group was founded in 2015 and is led by Urban Milwaukee publisher Dave Reid.

HNTB is leading the design of the project with assistance from Kapur & AssociatesIntegris is serving as the owner’s representative for CSF and Milwaukee Downtown. A community meeting was held in December 2020.

The project also includes replacing the curb and associated ramps that ring the park. The south end of the park will receive new landscaping and low, concrete landscape walls. A screen will be added to shield a utility box at the southwest corner. In the coming years, the Department of Public Works intends to rebuild the adjacent E. Wells St.

The eastern side of the park, along N. Jackson St., will receive the streetscaping upgrades once the first portion is completed. The eastern side of the park is currently being maintained as an accessway to the interior of the park.

The park is owned by Milwaukee County Parks, but the improvements are almost entirely taking place in the city-owned right of way on the edge of the park. The interior of the park will remain unchanged.

Improvements to the park, particularly its perimeter, were recommended in the 2010 Downtown Plan and it is now one of the last unexecuted projects from that plan. An effort is underway to update the plan, with Milwaukee Downtown contributing $100,000 to its development.

Improvements to the interior of the park could occur in future years, but would require a finalized plan, community outreach, funding and approval from Milwaukee County.

Construction Photos

Pre-Construction Photos & Rendering

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