Harbor District Riverwalk Takes a Step Forward


In 2018, Harbor District took a major step forward in the process of connecting people to the Kinnickinnic and Inner Harbor waterfronts. The City of Milwaukee’s Common Council passed Riverwalk zoning that will allow people to access this historically inaccessible area.

The next step? Creating design guidelines for Riverwalk development. The City and Harbor District will now work together starting in the spring of 2019 to create general design guidelines for property owners who plan to develop their properties in the future. These design guidelines will ensure that the “feel” of the Riverwalk will be consistent as it is built piece by piece from about Bruce Street to Lincoln Avenue.

While the exact character of the district’s Riverwalk won’t be determined until the design process is under way, Lindsay Frost, Water Projects Manager of Harbor District, was able to share some cursory ideas. Some possible elements that could make this Riverwalk distinctive include the incorporation of a “final filtration system” for stormwater providing, where appropriate, a last line of water quality protection before runoff flows into the Kinnickinnic River. The Riverwalk would also include “nodes” that will serve as points of interest where additional public amenities may be available.

One of these “nodes” is already under construction at the end of Greenfield Avenue, next to the University of Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences. Harbor View Plaza, currently under construction, will connect to the Komatsu development’s Riverwalk, which will likely be one of the first portions of the expanded Riverwalk built. The City of Milwaukee has committed $15 million to the construction of the Riverwalk in this location.

“This space at the end of Greenfield was already being used as an informal park, and it will connect seamlessly to the Riverwalk,” says Frost. The plaza will consist of such amenities as a canoe and kayak launch and a play structure for kids. Just like this plaza space, the designs for the other nodes along the Riverwalk will receive comment from the public before they are built. This public involvement combined with improved access will help to reverse approximately a century and a half of disconnect between people and the water in this historically industrialized part of Milwaukee.

The Komatsu and Michels developments will reinforce the triple bottom-line benefits of the area. Not only will these developments bring jobs to the district, but new employees will benefit from being able to access the river, just like the employees and visitors in the Menomonee Valley have been able to do since the construction of stormwater parks that have dual recreational and stormwater storage and filtration functions. Currently, the remediation strategies for the Solvay Coke & Gas Superfund site are open for review and public comment. The property is owned by WE Energies, who is also leading the remediation. The Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) report recommends plans for remediating contamination found in the soil of the site. After the EE/CA is approved, We Energies will be able to move forward with remediation of the site. If you would like to access the report and public commentary, the link is available here: https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0508215.

You can learn more about the proposed Riverwalk Overlay Zone from the Harbor District’s website at https://harbordistrict.org/projects/riverwalk/.