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. (HDI) 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 2018 as HDI and City staff worked with waterfront property owners to create and approve 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.

Following the adoption of the Harbor District Riverwalk SPROZ, a consultant team developed design standards, concepts for addressing challenging Riverwalk segments, and concepts for capitalizing on several more significant public spaces and access points. The Harbor District Riverwalk Design Standards will ensure the Riverwalk operates as a cohesive network with a common aesthetic theme and meets high standards for elements such as furniture, lighting, landscaping, natural habitat, and stormwater management.


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 Riverwalk that complies with the requirements of this overlay zone and associated design standards 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 questions or comments related to the Harbor District Riverwalk Overlay Zone, please contact us at info@harbordistrict.org


We are excited to announce the Harbor District Riverwalk is a new member of the High Line Network, a group of infrastructure reuse projects located across North America. For more info, visit http://network.thehighline.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.
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.

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