Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Developers: The Milwaukee RiverWalk District, Inc., The Mandel Group, Business Improvement District No. 2 , The Brewery Works, Inc. et al
Designer: KenKay Associates, Mary Miss, Engberg Anderson Architects, et al.
Site Size: 8.7 Acre
Milwaukee’s RiverWalk System is a world-class public amenity that draws hundreds of thousands of people to the shores of the Milwaukee River each year. Built from strong public-private partnerships, the RiverWalk is both a leisure space and a pedestrian thoroughfare. The accessible three-mile system with an average of 12-feet wide paths on both sides of the river runs through the heart of downtown Milwaukee with public access points approximately every 400 feet.
Through a total investment of $52 million, properties adjacent to the RiverWalk have generated a $1 billion increase in property values since construction began. The RiverWalk has truly redefined downtown Milwaukee becoming one of the most successful redevelopment corridors in Wisconsin and a lively commercial, residential, entertainment and recreation center. Milwaukee has embraced the RiverWalk as a natural asset. By
inviting people to the water’s edge, new, imaginative additions have followed including artwork and decoration, athletics and recreation, and dining and celebrations of Milwaukee’s culture.
When Europeans first arrived, the Milwaukee River hosted a thriving ecosystem. But, by the mid-1800s the river was neglected and abused. Pollution, damming, development and dredging, ostensibly to advance commercial interests, took its toll. By the mid-1900s, given its deteriorated condition, commerce and recreation vanished.
During the 1980s, local leaders and property owners invited a renewed focus on the river. They saw the river as a way to connect downtown development with new business and leisure activities. In 1988, then Mayor John Norquist announced the RiverWalk Initiative, a collaborative economic development plan to construct a three-mile downtown RiverWalk.
The RiverWalk and its associated river cleanup were catalytic, advancing significant private sector investment in Milwaukee’s downtown. Developers transformed warehouses, tanneries, breweries and an abandoned industrial corridor into 2,800 luxury and affordable residential units, 4.7 million square feet of office space, 515 hotel rooms, performing arts centers and dozens of riverfront businesses and restaurants.