Page 3 - Harbor District
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The Harbor District Water and
Land Use Plan (WaLUP) was developed through a two-year public planning process to
address challenges and reimagine Milwaukee’s working waterfront for the 21st century. Find out more at
New parks and public spaces were identified as a high priority during the WaLUP process. The plan calls for the creation of a 3 to 4 mile HarborWalk, along with several larger public space nodes and Harbor View Plaza which will greatly improve nearby residents’ access to public space and the waterfront.
A new HarborWalk will extend from the Downtown Riverwalk in the Third Ward along the western shore of the Inner Harbor and up the Kinnickinnic River to Bay View. New segments will be constructed as development takes place and connect to the neighborhood allowing nearby residents and visitors to enjoy Milwaukee’s “working waterfront” up close.
Left: Harbor View Plaza (Credit: Dan Adams)
Opposite Page: Harbor Fest (Credit: Will Archer)
For decades, the industrial waterfront of the Harbor District has been unwelcoming. Condemned buildings and contaminated sites attracted illicit activity, while low rail bridges and barbed wire kept more legitimate visitors away.
To begin the process of revitalization, we knew we needed to reintroduce people to this part of their city. Now, hundreds of people have joined us on bus, boat, kayak, bike, and walking tours. Others enjoy community events. Students from nearby elementary schools count dragonflies along the bike trail with us, and bring their parents back to check out Harbor View Plaza.
A committee of residents helps us take the pulse of how neighbors are feeling about the area - and how to achieve our vision for a harbor where everyone feels welcome.
Each fall, this free, family-friendly street festival celebrates the things that make the area special - fish, freshwater, and boats - plus live music, local food, and more.
The past two centuries of industrial activity have left contamination in the land and waterways of the Harbor District. As we look ahead to the next century, environmental clean-up, habitat restoration, and water quality improvements are key to a successful revitalization process.
The Harbor District vision includes striking a better balance between dense, urban development and green spaces that support birds, pollinators, native plants and other critters on land, and connected aquatic habitat that supports the many fish species that move through these waters.
Green infrastructure and innovative stormwater management practices will
help achieve water quality goals across the Harbor District while also helping to achieve city-wide and watershed goals.
The Harbor District’s underwater Habitat Hotels are retrofits for steel sheet piling, providing multiple vertical layers of aquatic plants, hiding places and food for fish. These habitat “pit stops” for aquatic life mimic the habitat that might be found along natural river shorelines.
Left: Illustration of Habitat Hotels
Right: Michels’ R1ver development brings a new mix of uses to the Kinnickinnic riverfront. (Credit: Rinka)
As Milwaukee’s working waterfront, it is important that the Harbor District continues to
be a center of employment and innovation. HDI and BID 51 work together to ensure that new developments and businesses have the support and resources to grow and flourish while providing economic opportunity for Milwaukee residents.
BID 51 was formed to maintain and enhance the Harbor District as a place to do business. Through small grants to property owners and catalytic streetscaping and placemaking projects, the BID works create an attractive environment.
The Harbor District Water and Land Use Plan recognized major redevelopment opportunities in this area, and recommended a wide range of uses - from industrial and manufacturing around Port Milwaukee, to office and residential along the waterfront opposite the Third Ward.

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