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Milwaukee to Seek Design for New Harbor District

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Milwaukee to Seek Design for New Harbor District

In an article written by Jen Kinney of Next City, Milwaukee's plans for an upcoming district, dedicated to the revitalization of its harbor, is unfolded.

The current site of interest for development is an industrial inner harbor area, which the city seeks to transform into a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly, eco-conscious neighborhood, dubbed The Harbor District. The vision is to re-design the current waterfront region to be more beneficial--environmentally, economically, and socially. This development will complement Water Technology District, a concentration of water-technology businesses, academic programs, and economic development organizations. Milwaukee is home to over 200 water technology businesses and has dedicated itself to becoming the freshwater capital of the world. Water Technology District has spurred $211.6 million in development already, heavily inspired by the success of the Global Water Center.

"Lilith Fowler, executive director of Harbor District, says the rebranded area could also serve as a showcase for sustainable water solutions, a home to water-related businesses, and a connection point between residents and Milwaukee’s industrial past and present. It also provides opportunity to restore a damaged landscape.  Thousands of acres of rice marsh once covered the area, providing habitat to wading birds, fish and beavers. Today, as for most of the last century and a half, it supports shipping, manufacturing and other industrial uses. Cargo ships are loaded and unloaded; a grain elevator that’s been in continual operation since 1916 still serves area farmers, moving corn and soybeans out and barley for Milwaukee’s brewers in."

Currently, a team has been assembled to explore design ideas. Jason Wegman of Vancouver-based PWL Partnership is spearheading the plans and talks about potential ideas.

"The studio did propose turning the former coal storage site into an incubator space for businesses associated with the School of Freshwater Sciences, complete with an experimental wetland landscape. Research teams could conduct restoration tests on the plot that could inform projects elsewhere. PWL also recommended beginning sustainability considerations far upstream: Instead of spending significant financial resources to dredge the harbor of sediment, as is done now, PWL proposed strengthening the river’s entire watershed to reduce sediment flow in the first place.

Restoration and sustainability were key aspects of all the firm’s designs. Studio Gang proposed transforming the harbor’s outer breakwater — an aging, three-mile-long concrete barrier that protects the harbor from Lake Michigan’s waves — into an ecological structure made up of rock, sheet pile and restored wetlands. All four increased pedestrian access to the waterfront, proposing parks and public spaces along it."

Attracting and retaining more water-related businesses further cements Milwaukee's position as the forerunner in freshwater research and science.

Click here to read more about the Harbor District Initiative.