Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Fall Construction Planned for Downtown Dog Park, Brewery

By 2024 Foxtown Brewing complex and dog park could be the "hot new place" in town.

By - Jun 14th, 2023 06:14 pm
Foxtown Landing and the Downtown Dog Park. Rendering by Stephen Perry Smith Architects.

Foxtown Landing and the Downtown Dog Park. Rendering by Stephen Perry Smith Architects.

Things are progressing towards a spring 2024 grand opening for the planned dog park in Downtown.

The project involves building a publicly-accessible dog park under Interstate 794 on the west side of the Milwaukee River and the development of a dog-friendly Foxtown Brewing complex, known as Foxtown Landing, to the south.

The City Plan Commission is scheduled to review final riverwalk designs on June 26. Construction would start on both components this fall, with the dog park portion opening in the spring and the three-story brewery complex following several months later.

The Milwaukee Downtown and the Historic Third Ward business improvement districts have pursued the dog park since 2020, and, in November 2022, announced Fromm Family Pet Food as the naming-rights partner and future neighbor. Mequon-based Fromm Neiman Brands owns the pet food company and the brewery.

The development and design teams working on the projects presented updated plans Wednesday to the Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board. The project would be located on what is currently vacant land along the Milwaukee River between W. Clybourn St., W. St. Paul Ave. and N. Plankinton Ave.

Many of the changes relate to how the Foxtown complex would connect to the Milwaukee River.

The tiered plazas connecting the building to the river are simplified to a one-level plaza with stairs down to the new Milwaukee RiverWalk segment. A public boat dock is being proposed and a river lookout point, an extension of a plaza between the building and dog park, was introduced.

A small surface parking lot was also eliminated.

“We eliminated the parking at the dog park and are going to use that as programmable plaza space,” said Eric Nesseth, an architectural designer with Stephen Perry Smith Architects. The firm is designing the Foxtown component of the project.

The plaza could still be driven on by vehicles to set up events, but eliminating the parking lot would prevent conflict between pedestrians and vehicles, better unify the two projects and improve the attractiveness of the two.

Engineering firm GRAEF is leading the design of the dog park, which includes a synthetic turf surface. That artificial surface, a necessity given the lack of sunlight caused by the freeway, also influences other design elements of the project.

A bioswale along the riverwalk would be fed by the flushing system in the turf system. The bioswale, a sunken garden-like water retention system, would filter the runoff before it enters the river. But design review board members raised concerns that it, like other bioswales, could also attract litter.

Board member Michael DeMichele, an architect, developer and restaurateur, challenged the design teams to better harmonize the new riverwalk with the existing riverwalk on the east side of the river. That includes exploring expanded landscaping options.

“The thing to keep in mind is this is the prototype for the eventual on-land riverwalk to the south,” said Ron San Felippo, encouraging the design team to get it right because future development will occur to the south.

But there is a key concern about landscaping: dogs would pee on it before entering the dog park. “We didn’t want to add too much landscaping for that reason,” said Nesseth.

There will be one structural difference regardless of what changes are made: the east side riverwalk was built over the river while the west side riverwalk is being built on solid ground. The land-based solution is being proposed because of the condition of the sheet pile wall.

The board, giving an informal review before the City Plan Commission renders an official decision, also hit on a few other concerns to work out. Most notably, the board encouraged the design team to consider strategies to mitigate an entryway to the dog park that lines up with where snow could drop from the freeway above. As the Milwaukee Public Market has experienced, snow plows push snow up and over the freeway sidewalls.

Other concerns involved making sure an enclosure adjacent to the dog park, which would wrap a We Energies steam tunnel vent, could be cedar or another attractive cladding. A solution must also be found to honor the Black Nite Brawl, a 1961 homophobic attack that occurred nearby and is considered a major event in the early fight for gay rights. There is support to do so, said the development team, once the design of the plaza is finalized.

And despite the nuanced concerns, board members continued to endorse the project.

“This is such a great situation to have the two tying together,” said board member and Department of City Development planner Greg Patin. He said it avoids the need to design the dog park in a way that supports a larger future building next to it. A development team member said Fromm president Tom Nieman was motivated to develop the Foxtown building in part to avoid a high-rise going up next to the dog park.

“This should be the hot new place in Milwaukee,” said Patin. And come 2024, it just might be. At least for dog owners.


2022 Foxtown Renderings

2021 Dog Park Renderings

Site Photos

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