Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Construction Starts on Century City Park Expansion

Revamped Melvina Park at 29th and Melvina will nearly quadruple in size.

By - May 3rd, 2023 04:32 pm
Melvina Park site plan. Image from City of Milwaukee - MKE Plays.

Melvina Park site plan. Image from City of Milwaukee – MKE Plays.

Construction is finally underway on a long-awaited expansion of Melvina Park, across the street from the Century City Business Park.

The revamped park, which will nearly quadruple in size, is expected to open this fall. It will include a multi-purpose field, dog exercise area, boardwalk, stage area and several green infrastructure features designed to capture stormwater runoff. The existing playground and basketball court will be replaced.

“This can’t be understated as being one of the most important developments here in this neighborhood,” said area Alderman Khalif Rainey at a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday. “This is where community is made… essentially what we are doing right here is developing community.”

City officials and neighbors began discussing the project privately in 2018 and publicly in June 2020, hoping for a 2021 completion. But that didn’t happen, nor did a plan to advance the project happen in 2022. Now, with additional funding secured, construction is moving forward on the $2.3 million park.

Fifty-year area resident Yvonne McCaskill has been waiting a long time for this.

“In 1976, this community woke up to the sounds of a bulldozer,” said McCaskill. A.O. Smith had quietly bought up a number of houses, a former school and other commercial properties and was clearing the site to build employee parking for its factory complex. The neighbors negotiated for an approximately one-acre park to be constructed at N. 29th St. and W. Melvina St., just east of W. Hopkins St.

A.O. Smith, its 5,000 employees and towering stacks of automobile frames are now long gone. The city has cleared much of the industrial site, now known as Century City, for development. It’s also hoping to reinvigorate the surrounding neighborhoods.

“The Melvina Park expansion is direct evidence of our commitment to residents that live in and around the Century City Triangle neighborhood,” said Department of City Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump. It’s one of 52 city-owned parks, almost all of which are part of the city’s MKE Plays program.

“Every single one of us can benefit from the opportunities parks provide,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson to the crowd of several dozen neighbors and project partners. A neighbor-focused groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday also drew approximately 100 people.

McCaskill, head of the Century City Triangle Neighborhood Association, praised Rainey for ensuring residents had a voice in the park’s development. “He made sure there was meaningful community engagement in the planning and design,” she said.

Ald. Michael Murphy, who championed the creation of the MKE Parks program nearly a decade ago, said the community engagement reflected a shift away from allowing engineers in cubicles to design parks. He also praised the private partners that have helped fund the revitalized parks, which had otherwise languished for decades.

Quad/Graphics is donating $500,000 to the Melvina Park project, located just south of W. Capitol Dr. A portion of its donation will be set aside for events and other programming at the park after it opens. The Burke Foundation also contributed $500,000 to MKE Plays, with funding to be split between two parks.

“For us, this is about the long-term commitment,” said Quad chairman and CEO Joel Quadracci. The organization opened a training and recruitment hub last fall at Century City Tower, 4201 N. 27th St. The facility also serves as a busing hub for its exurban printing plants. “We believe that strong businesses of the future have to have the best talent and the talent has to be made up of everybody in the community.”

Since 2015, MKE Plays reports privately raising nearly $4 million for its park renovation efforts.

Other funders for Melvina Park include the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Greater Milwaukee Foundation. The city has been joined by Reflo, The Sigma Group, CE Planning Studio, New Eden Landscape Architecture and UW-Milwaukee’s Community Design Solutions in designing the park. Clean Wisconsin, the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation, Milwaukee Recreation, WaterMarks project and Beginning Dreams Forever are participating in programming.

In June 2020, the park was expected to cost $1.1 million to develop. MKE Plays director Joe Kaltenberg said part of the project’s growing cost is an expanded scope, including doubling the stormwater retention capabilities and being more responsive to community desires for gathering spaces, as well as inflation and other construction cost increases. The city has awarded a contract to build the environmental components and expects to award a contract later this year for the playground and other fixtures.

The park is being designed to store 225,000 gallons of stormwater runoff. The surrounding area has been plagued by flooding in recent years. Across W. Capitol Dr. to the north, MMSD is building 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.

The park project is one of 45 identified in a 2020 Century City action plan from the Department of City Development. The plan attempts to coordinate the many different efforts and partners operating in the area.

The Burke Foundation grant, its second to the MKE Plays program, is also being used to support the rehabilitation of the Cawker Play Area, 2929 N. 30th St. Several additional MKE Plays projects are in various stages of development, including the overhaul of Zillman Park, improvements to Butterfly Park and the recent completion of a new facility at 29th and Clybourn Park.


Existing Park

Renderings and Site Plan

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Categories: Parks, Real Estate, Weekly

One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Construction Starts on Century City Park Expansion”

  1. matimm says:

    Thank you for reporting on this story.

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