Plan envisions changes to harbor region
Proposal first step toward development taking place
A harbor front RiverWalk connecting to a park, and a mix of light industrial buildings, offices and housing, are among the future uses envisioned in a new plan that would dramatically transform Milwaukee’s port area.
The projects presented in the proposed land and water use plan are conceptual. They lack specific developers, cost estimates or time frames.
However, such plans, overseen by city officials, are typically the first step toward large developments eventually occurring. That was the pattern for the Menomonee Valley, the downtown RiverWalk and the Park East corridor.
Mayor Tom Barrett’s administration, as well as many private investors, view Milwaukee’s inner harbor area as having that same long-term development potential.
The area is bordered roughly by S. 1st
St., the lakefront, the Milwaukee River and Bay St./Becher St.
That covers a big piece of the Walker’s Point neighborhood, where new apartments and other developments are occurring. The planning area also crosses the Kinnickinnic River into a small northern portion of the popular Bay View neighborhood.
The new plan will need Plan Commission and Common Council approval, with that review scheduled for December and January. It will likely be posted online by Oct. 26, with an open house in early November, said Dan Adams, planning director at Harbor District Inc., a nonprofit group leading the redevelopment efforts.
Adams provided an early look at the plan during a Thursday presentation to the Milwaukee Board of Harbor Commissioners.
The eventual transformation could create an estimated 5,600 jobs and $864 million of increased property values, he said.
“Obviously, that will take some time to come to fruition,” Adams told board members.
The single largest site would be the 47-acre former Milwaukee Solvay Coke Co. site, 311 E. Greenfield Ave.
The Solvay site is primarily south of E. Greenfield Ave., along the harbor and Kinnickinnic River, roughly two blocks east of 1st St. It could be combined with a former coal storage area that the city owns just to the east, south of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences.
The plan envisions light industrial and office buildings on that combined site’s northern portion. Mixed-use residential and commercial buildings could be on the southern part.
There also would be a 7- to 10-acre waterfront park.
A big challenge is access to the site. That’s now limited to E. Greenfield Ave., with a low railroad overpass making it impossible for large trucks to reach any future light industrial buildings.
One possible solution: extending E. Mitchell St. on to the site’s southern end with a new railroad underpass, Adams said.
That would require relocating a Milwaukee County Transit System facility at 1710-1716 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., where E. Mitchell St. would be extended, he said.
“I think that’s critical,” said Tim Hoelter, board president.
A We Energies affiliate bought the the Solvay site in April for $4 million and is overseeing an environmental cleanup. The utility operated a gas works on the site decades ago.
The waterfront park would connect to a new RiverWalk that would run roughly 3 miles along the Milwaukee River, harbor and Kinnickinnic River, from the E. Pittsburgh Ave. bridge to S. Chase Ave.
Including a section on both sides of the Kinnickinnic River, that RiverWalk would total 4.5 miles, Adams said. It would connect to four new canoe and kayak launches, as well as a harbor boat launch that could eventually be added near the end of E. Washington St., he said.
Also, the area near Nidera’s harbor front grain elevator, 960 E. Bay St., could be developed for light industrial use, a marina and mixed-use residential and commercial buildings.
Part of that area includes the city-owned Grand Trunk site, where a wetland is being restored. That larger area serves as an important link between Walker’s Point and Bay View, Adams said.
Other proposed improvements include new streets and bike paths throughout the Harbor District.
The inner harbor area has been attracting more attention from private investors in recent years.
Wangard Partners Inc. in November opened Freshwater Plaza, a fourstory building with 76 apartments and around 16,500 square feet of street-level commercial space, at 1320 S. 1st St.
A 65,000-square-foot Cermak Fresh Market opened in June at 1236 S. Barclay St., at the Freshwater Plaza site. Additional retail buildings are planned.
Also, the former Horny Goat Hideaway brew pub site, which overlooks the Kinnickinnic River at 2011-2029 and 2067 S. 1st St., was sold in April for $3.6 million to a group affiliated with Brownsville-based Michels Corp., an underground utility contractor.
Those new owners haven’t yet disclosed a redevelopment plan for that 4-acre site.
People running Thursday in the 1900 block of S. Kinnickinnic Ave. pass the former Milwaukee Solvay Coke Co. site, which is undergoing environmental remediation and cleanup. For more photos, go to