Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Melvina Park Expansion To Start Later This Year

Century City park will quadruple in size, replacing empty parking lots with play space.

By - Apr 21st, 2022 04:30 pm
Melvina Park / Century City Triangle Neighborhood Park. Image from RACM.

Melvina Park / Century City Triangle Neighborhood Park. Image from RACM.

The City of Milwaukee is lining up all of the necessary pieces to start construction on an expansion of a park adjacent to the Century City Business Park later this year.

The four-acre park, nearly quadruple its current size, will include new playground equipment, a dog park, more trees, an open field for soccer or other games, raised garden beds, basketball courts and a performance/stage area.

The triangular site was cleared by A.O. Smith in the 1970s and 1980s, with much of it becoming an employee parking lot. A small portion on the eastern edge houses the existing park.

Currently known as Melvina Park, it serves as a transition zone between the surrounding neighborhoods and the business park that once saw over 5,000 employees a day build automobile frames. The current park includes aging playground equipment, disused basketball courts and an asphalt play space, while the former parking lots are mostly overgrown with vegetation.

The Century City Triangle Neighborhood Association has represented residents in discussions about the new park.

“Our story actually started back in the 1970s when A.O. Smith quietly acquired the housing stock,” said association leader and 49-year area resident Yvonne McCaskill to the board of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee Tuesday. She said the neighborhood was unable to stop the company from demolishing the houses, but was able to prevent all of the space from being used for parking. “What we negotiated in its place was the creation of this space, a green area.”

The factory complex and parking lots were sold to Tower Automotive in 1997. When Tower went bankrupt in 2006, Milwaukee Industrial Trade Center, a metal scrapping operation, acquired the site. The city acquired the complex in 2009 and created a plan to develop the Century City business park, but it wasn’t sure what to do with the former parking lot properties.

Department of Public Works‘ MKE Plays program coordinator Joe Kaltenberg said the neighbors made it clear they wanted more green space, not vacant land that could eventually be used for housing.

“We wanted this space to represent what this community had worked over the years to create, somewhere where quality of life is the goal,” said McCaskill. “We were persistent, we wanted more.”

Kaltenberg said the plan reflects their vision. It includes an environmentally-friendly theme and design focus, he said, which is intended to, in part, address the increasingly heavy flooding that has impacted the surrounding area.

RACM environmental project manager Tory Kress said three bioswales will be included in the project to trap rainwater.

“It was in late 2018 we began collaborating with MKE Plays,” she said. The Sigma Group was hired in 2020 to create a design for the space. “Since that time our team has been working together to refine the park components, to do some value engineering on the design and to do some fundraising, largely by writing grants to support the construction project.”

Announced in 2020 as a $1.1 million project, the project is being funded by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District‘s green infrastructure program, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources stormwater management grant, the Environmental Protection Agency‘s (EPA) Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a Burke Foundation grant, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, RACM and DPW’s MKE Plays.

Kress said an earlier EPA grant was used to clean remnants of a former fueling station on the site. As part of the final construction, a clay cap will be placed over the brownfield-designated portion of the site. “There is no real long-term monitoring or anything like that that we envision,” she said.

The expanded park will run from N. 28th St. west to W. Hopkins St. and W. Melvina St. south to W. Vienna Ave.

The proposal went before RACM in order to secure approval to merge the RACM-owned parcels with other city-owned parcels. The parcels included are addressed as 3840 N. 29th St.3814 N. 29th St.2900 W. Hopkins St. and 3010 W. Hopkins St. The board unanimously granted approval.

The Common Council will also need to approve a rezoning request, right-of-way vacation and certified survey map (property combination) to enable the project.

“Timeline-wise, we are looking to bid the project out later this spring and start construction later this summer, early fall,” said Kress.

“We are really excited to see this come to fruition,” said Kaltenberg.

In 2020 the expanded park was to be named Century City Triangle Neighborhood Park, though neither the speakers, nor the documents presented Tuesday used that name.

The project is one of several dozen in the area. Across W. Capitol Dr. to the north, MMSD is pursuing the West Basin stormwater retention area. The 10-acre green space, which will have some park features, is intended to capture 31 million gallons of water during a storm. It’s part of a network of stormwater projects designed to capture 40-million gallons of stormwater, keeping it out of the Deep Tunnel and also out of city streets and area basements.

All of the projects are to be sequenced as part of the 45-item Connecting the Corridor Action Plan to maximize their impact.

Existing Park and Site Plan

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