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Our Vision

City Development


The land beneath I-794 is some of the most valuable in Wisconsin. Based on the assessed value of nearby new construction, the 32.5 acres of land between 6th and Chicago Street is worth over a billion dollars. Boulevard conversion could generate $30 million in annual property tax revenue for the City of Milwaukee and deliver much needed new housing in a high demand area. The Third Ward has seen its population soar from just 36 in 1985 to nearly 25,000 today, this reflects high demand for multi-family housing (City of Milwaukee Staff 2006, 17; Point2 Staff n.d.). Milwaukee has faced a declining population for much of the last half century, this makes prioritizing an underutilized highway over new housing in a high-demand area especially foolish (Thomas 2021).  

Restoring a Neighborhood

A neighborhood can be rebuilt from the rubble of an underutilized highway. Gathering places important to Milwaukee’s Italian and LGBTQ communities were cleared for the construction of I-794, including the Blessed Virgin of Pompeii Church. While we can’t restore the neighborhood that was destroyed for the highway, we can honor the past residents by building a place for future generations. Vibrancy and life can be restored to this area of historical importance. Where we once designed the area for people to spend mere minutes passing through on a highway, a neighborhood is meant for people to spend hours socializing, relaxing, working, and building a life.

Clybourn as a Vibrant Boulevard

Removing I-794 presents an opportunity to turn Clybourn into a two-way boulevard lined with activity. While one might expect downtown to be the best places in the city to bike, in fact the opposite is true. Walking down Clybourn Street, it is easy to understand why. Walking on roads in I-794's shadow means contending with drivers traveling upwards of 50 miles an hour to and from an expansive network of elevated expressway. A surface-level boulevard would better support business activity and calm traffic to a level appropriate for a densely populated area.



A New Street for Connection

Infrastructure can isolate us or can facilitate connection, it's a matter of design. By rethinking 794, we can favor the activities that increase quality of life and attract private investment. One idea for this space is to create a new street open just to people. This 70' wide slice of placemaking would run down the middle of Milwaukee's new neighborhood, allowing for cyclists and pedestrians to amble uninterrupted by motorized vehicles. With intimate seating areas this gathering place connects us to each other while also connecting us to Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River.

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Creating Unique Public Spaces

How do we make better decisions for Milwaukee without forgetting our past mistakes? Can we transform a piece of the highway into an asset? Since WE Energies’ steam pipe hugs the deck of the I-794 EB crossing of the Milwaukee River, we propose a simple concept. Use what’s there and re-purpose the bridge into a year-round attraction. This avoids disruptions for steam users and the complexity to relocate these utilities.

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Today, the Third Ward’s population has exploded to almost 25,000. Between 2000 and 2010, the Census tract that encompasses the Third Ward grew by 70%, making it the fastest growing Census tract in Milwaukee and the sixth fastest in Wisconsin (Thomas 2021). Walking around the area, it is easy to understand why. The Third Ward is one of the best examples of a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood in Wisconsin. It is these residents, not commuters, who have been essential to the area’s staggering comeback. While I-794 and the space under it has sat underutilized since its completion, human-scale projects like the RiverWalk, Deer District, and Lakefront Gateway have generated a myriad of new developments in downtown and the Third Ward.

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“[Elevated highways] present significant psychological barriers to pedestrian travel: they loom over the street blocking the sun and are, altogether, out of scale for pedestrians. … Few pedestrians intentionally walk through these areas. This pedestrian “disconnection” diminishes the value and vibrancy of the severed neighborhoods.”


“1999 Downtown Plan.” 1999. City of Milwaukee Department of City Development. Milwaukee. 
City of Milwaukee Staff. 2006. “Third Ward Neighborhood Comprehensive Plan.” City of Milwaukee. July 2006. 
DCD Staff. n.d. “Park East Freeway - History and Removal.” City of Milwaukee Department of City Development. Accessed April 20, 2022. 
Point2 Staff. n.d. “Historic Third Ward Demographics.” Point2. Accessed May 3, 2022. 
Snyder, Alex. 2016. “Freeway Removal in Milwaukee: Three Case Studies.” Theses and Dissertations. May 1, 2016. 
Thomas, Arthur. 2021. “Public Record: Where Is Milwaukee County Growing?” BizTimes. September 26, 2021.

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