© 2023 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Projects & Businesses Connect Milwaukee's Downtown Neighborhoods

Milwaukee's Third Ward
Joy Powers
Milwaukee's Third Ward neighborhood, as seen from beneath the I-794 underpass.

The destruction of neighborhoods in favor of highways has left a lasting scar on American cities. In Milwaukee, thriving neighborhoods and businesses were destroyed as highways were constructed to shuttle people from jobs in the city to newly developed suburbs.

These highways continue to divide Milwaukee, like Interstate 794 downtown. "That has created a lasting legacy of a barrier, both physical and psychological, between the main portion of downtown and the Third Ward," says Tom Daykin, a reporter covering commercial real estate for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

For decades, the city has been working to mend these spaces by reestablishing connections between neighborhoods. Some areas have been easier to redevelop, like the land where the Park East Freeway once stood. The demolition of that highway led to the creation of the Deer District.

But in areas where these highways still stand, these connections have been more difficult to mend. Downtown Milwaukee is still physically separated from the Third Ward by I-794. Still, a variety of projects under the highway and businesses that buttress the overpass have made this divide more permeable.

"First of all, we do have the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk does go underneath I-794, so that's one way of connecting downtown to the Third Ward despite the freeway's presence," Daykin says.

Businesses like the Milwaukee Public Market and, most recently, Tupelo Honey help bridge the divide between the neighborhoods.

There have also been other projects under the highway itself that have helped bring life to the area. "That includes pickle ball courts for you pickle ball fans out there, as well as space that can be used for events," Daykin explains.

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Tom Daykin has been covering commercial development at the Journal Sentinel since 1995.
Related Content