Committee aims to make Milwaukee’s lakefront more accessible, attractive

Milwaukee's lakefront is in store for numerous redevelopments. Photo by Martina Ibanez/ [email protected]

The Milwaukee County Long-Range Lakefront Planning Committee presented a plan to redevelop some of the area’s most desirable real estate along the lakefront.

According to Michael Cudahy, a Milwaukee philanthropist and member of the 13-person committee, the plans include redeveloping the downtown transit center, reconstructing Lincoln Memorial Drive and Michigan Street and improving O’Donnell Park. The plans also involve reconfiguring the Lake Interchange and making improvements to the Hoan Bridge, including a bike and pedestrian path.

“Essentially what we’re doing is making the lakefront more accessible and attractive,” Cudahy said.

He said this area has the most valuable real estate in Wisconsin and that if a developer wanted to build in the area, they would be in a “fabulous spot.”

The renovation could take between three and five years, and could be paid for through tax increments, Cudahy said.

Regardless of how it’s funded, Cudahy said the current state of the lakefront has several areas where it can be improved.

“No one wants (the downtown transit center) there, not even the bus drivers,” he said. “It’s ugly and blocks the view of the lakefront. We can do a lot better than that.”

Cudahy said the intersection that gets tourists to Summerfest and Discovery World is a disaster and could be safer for visitors.

“We are proposing a spiral structure that descends on the other side,” Cudahy said. “It would be very attractive and very good for tourists.”

The Hoan Bridge, which caused traffic problems in 2001 when there was a crack in the steel support, could also be improved, he said.

“There’s no way to walk across it,” Cudahy said. “And the two big spurs on the freeway don’t belong there.”

The committee wasn’t the only group involved in the planning.

The Milwaukee Department of City Development was involved as well, according to spokesman Jeff Fleming.

“(This is) a great opportunity for Milwaukee’s lakefront,” Fleming said.

He said the city examined key issues in the development of the lakefront and in connecting it to downtown.

“A lot of effort (was put into) to what is possible, reasonable, what ought to be protected,” Fleming said.

He said the committee was positive and produced some consensus recommendations, and that the department he works for was very involved.

Karla Thorpe, a senior in the College of Communication, appreciates the lakefront for what it is right now and does not necessarily see the need for renovations.

“I think it’s really pretty, especially in the summer,” Thorpe said. “A lot of people are on the beaches in the summer, and the roller blade trails are nice.”