The waterfront of Milwaukee’s Harbor District has largely been off-limits to the general public for most of the City’s history. As much of the waterfront is no longer needed for heavy industry and shipping, there is an opportunity to open up the waterfront to public use and to reconnect surrounding neighborhoods to the waterways that flow through their community, while preserving the ability for marine-based businesses to operate or expand. A public Harborwalk extending from the northern end of Walker’s Point at Bruce Street up the Kinnickinnic River to Lincoln Avenue will be a great asset to the Harbor District, surrounding neighborhoods, and the city as a whole.


In 2018 the City of Milwaukee Common Council approved the Harbor District Water and Land Use Plan (WaLUP) as an element of the City’s comprehensive plan. The first of four catalytic projects in the WaLUP is an “Improved Waterfront Experience”, which proposes a new vision for the waterfront of the Harbor District as a “multi-purpose multi-use waterfront” that includes a public Riverwalk.

With the WaLUP completed, Harbor District, Inc. and the City of Milwaukee are now moving forward with efforts to develop a public Harborwalk along the western shore of the inner harbor and the Kinnickinnic River. The first step in that process took place over the summer of 2018 as Harbor District and City staff talked to waterfront property owners in preparation for the creation of a proposed Riverwalk Overlay Zone.

In December 2018 the City of Milwaukee Common Council approved the Harbor District Riverwalk Site Plan Review Overlay Zone (SPROZ).  This overlay zone covers the western shore of the inner harbor and both sides of the Kinnickinnic River up to Lincoln Avenue.

With the Harbor District Riverwalk SPROZ adopted, the City of Milwaukee and Harbor District, Inc. are now moving forward with the development of design standards for the Harborwalk.  Over the summer and fall of 2019 a consultant team will develop design standards, concepts for addressing challenging Harborwalk segments, and concepts for capitalizing on several more significant public spaces and access points.


The Harbor District Riverwalk SPROZ includes all waterfront parcels on the western shore of the Inner Harbor and waterfront parcels on both sides of the Kinnickinnic River between the Union Pacific rail swing bridge and Lincoln Avenue.  City Plan Commission approval is required for all projects located 50 feet landward of an existing dock wall or ordinary high water mark. For any property located within or partially within the overlay zone, a Harborwalk that complies with the requirements of this overlay zone shall be constructed at the time of any new construction or substantial improvement of a principal structure on the property.  The requirement to construct a Harborwalk shall apply even in cases where the principal structure itself is not located within the zone.

When Harborwalk Design Standards are completed in late 2019, these standards would be adopted by the Common Council and apply to all parcels within the Harbor District Riverwalk SPROZ.

For questions or comments related to the Harbor District Riverwalk Overlay Zone, please contact Dan Adams at dan@harbordistrict.org



Conceptual rendering of a Harborwalk on the north end of the Harbor District.  Rendering by UWM Community Design Solutions.


Conceptual rendering of a Harborwalk and waterfront park along the Kinnickinnic River on the south end of the former Solvay Coke & Gas site.  Rendering by SEH.



Map of proposed Harborwalk (in blue) from the Harbor District Water and Land Use Plan.  Actual Riverwalk Overlay Zone may differ from that shown here.