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 Riverwalk 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 Riverwalk 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 Fall 2018 the proposed Riverwalk Overlay Zone will be discussed at the BID51 Annual Meeting & Open House, where property owners will have an opportunity to ask questions in an open setting.  The Riverwalk Overlay Zone will likely be introduced to the City of Milwaukee Common Council around this time and will proceed through the City Planning Commission, the Zoning, Neighborhoods, and Development Committee, and eventually to the full Common Council for approval.


The proposed overlay zone would include 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. Within the proposed Riverwalk overlay zone, City Plan Commission approval would be required for all projects located 50 feet landward of an existing dock wall or ordinary high watermark. For any property located within or partially within the overlay zone, a Riverwalk 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 Riverwalk shall apply even in cases where the principal structure itself is not located within the zone.

For further details on the proposed Riverwalk Overlay Zone see the Harbor District Riverwalk Intro, FAQ, and Draft Design Standards document.

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


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


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



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