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Making Milwaukee's Downtown Better For Pedestrians Will Be Top Of Mind In The New Development Plan

The Hop was one of the key parts in achieving a more connected downtown set out by the 2010 Downtown Area Plan.
Chuck Quirmbach
The Hop was one of the key parts in achieving a more connected downtown set out by the 2010 Downtown Area Plan.

In 2010, the Milwaukee Common Council adopted the Downtown Area Plan to push forward development plans to improve the city’s downtown. One of the big goals of the plan was to help downtown feel more connected to the rest of the city and to help Milwaukeeans connect with each other.

After more than a decade with the 2010 plan, city leaders are drawing up a new one based on the successes and failures in downtown.

Tom Daykinreports on commercial development for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he says one the key elements of the plan was to add a Milwaukee streetcar, a goal that was realized in 2018 with The Hop.

“[The Hop] drew more riders than expected in its first year but then we had the pandemic and that ridership really fell off last year in 2020,” he says.

But Daykin says the current route of The Hop is not meant to be the end and it’s going to take further development to expand the service.

The future plan is to have streetcars that reach all the way to the lakefront, but the much-delayed Couture high rise will need to be built first as The Hop is designed to go through a transit station of the first level of the Couture. The 44-story building’s transit hub is currently scheduled to be completed in June of 2022.

“We’re more connected now then we were in 2010. We’re not anywhere near as envisioned by the people who are backing The Hop and other forms of mass transit,” he says.

Daykin says the new plan will also take on the goal of making the city more friendly to pedestrians and bikers. He says examples like the Fiserv Forum and the surrounding area show a model of what a more street-level friendly downtown could look like.

He points to areas like the Haymarket neighborhood, the blocks surround the Milwaukee Intermodal Station and the lakefront all of areas that could gain attention in the city’s plan, which should be released towards the end of this year or beginning of 2022.

“What’s part of all this is trying to create better pedestrian, safer pedestrian and biking connections in that area, including spanning Lincoln Memorial Drive,” he says.

While Daykin says there may be some naysayers, the last 10 years proves that progress is possible when it comes to developing downtown.

“By and large, things have happened — not to maybe the extend or maybe to the same extent that were expected in the 2010 plan — but they have happened,” he says.

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Tom Daykin has been covering commercial development at the Journal Sentinel since 1995.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.