Gateway Plaza would link downtown to lakefront

Posted on Oct 27, 2015

Published October 27, 2015
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A new parklike public plaza, designed to make the lakefront area near Discovery World, Maier Festival Park and other attractions more welcoming and accessible to downtown Milwaukee, would be built with private and public funds under a proposal unveiled Tuesday.

The Lakefront Gateway Plaza would replace about 1 acre of vacant green space on the east side of Lincoln Memorial Drive, just west of Discovery World. The plaza would be just across the street from the planned Couture apartment high-rise and possible future Johnson Controls Inc. downtown office tower.

The plaza would feature a fountain area that would double as winter ice-skating rinks, as well as trees, shrubs, benches and paths. It would connect to the west side of Lincoln Memorial Drive with a pedestrian bridge, and with an extension of E. Clybourn St.

The plaza is to help better connect the two sides of Lincoln Memorial Drive; such nearby attractions as the Milwaukee Art Museum and Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, and private developments such as the expanding Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. headquarters and the 833 East office building — both now under construction.

The plaza design is from a team led by Graef, a Milwaukee-based design, engineering and planning firm. Graef’s partners are PFS Studio, of Vancouver, British Columbia; Dan Euser Waterarchitecture, of Richmond Hill, Ontario; Milwaukee-based Rinka Chung Architecture; and local civic marketing and event planning group NEWaukee.

The Graef team was among four design teams asked by a group of city and county officials and others, including representatives from nearby public and private developments, to provide a proposal. That same group selected Graef’s proposal to pursue.

Graef’s plans so far are conceptual, and there is no construction schedule. A more detailed proposal would undergo Plan Commission and Common Council review, with public input used to help make revisions.

Graef would likely time the plaza’s construction to coincide with the planned Clybourn St. extension, and the planned extension of Lincoln Memorial Drive southward to Chicago St., in the Historic Third Ward, said Patrick Kressin, a Graef principal.

That would likely mean the plaza’s construction would start in 2017, he said.

Also, there are not yet specific financing sources for the project. One preliminary estimate said the plaza could cost $26 million, with the city already committing $3 million to help build the pedestrian bridge.

Those city funds would be repaid through new property tax revenue generated by the Northwestern Mutual project.

But the “strong preference” of city and county officials is that the plaza project uses as much private funding as possible, Mayor Tom Barrett said.

That could be a challenge, with several Milwaukee cultural institutions also competing for money.

On Monday, a Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce task force said a new regional sales tax could be used to finance deferred maintenance and other projects for cultural assets such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee Public Museum and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

The Greater Milwaukee Committee, the private civic group that will help raise funds for the plaza, plans to tie that effort with the other fundraising campaigns, said Julia Taylor, president.

“I don’t see it as competition at all,” she said. “I think this will be pretty quickly embraced by the community.”

Read the full article here.