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Milwaukee leaders OK proposed extension of riverwalk into Menomonee Valley

Riverwalk, Menomonee River Valley, Third Ward

Milwaukee leaders have given their blessing to a proposed extension of the city’s riverwalk into the Menomonee Valley.

On Tuesday morning, the city’s Common Council approved a pair of proposals that would take the walkway west, along the Menomonee River Valley, connecting that historically industrial corridor to the Third Ward neighborhood.

Plans call for the riverwalk to extend from where the Menomonee and Milwaukee rivers meet west to Three Bridges Park, at S. 27th Street. The new section of riverwalk would be connected at its eastern end to the existing riverwalk segment in the Third Ward.

New segments will be built either upfront or as riverfront properties are redeveloped.

The riverwalk was originally planned to run from the North Avenue Dam north of downtown south to the mouth of the Milwaukee Harbor. About 83 percent of that stretch has been finished.

Common Council members on Tuesday approved two proposals related to the riverwalk project.

The first proposal sets up a site-plan-review overlay zone that essentially establishes an area along the riverfront where the Department of City Development can review the designs of newly proposed riverwalk segments. The second establishes the new overlay zone’s design standards.

Corey Zetts, executive director of the non-profit group Menomonee Valley Partners, said that people in the past people had not taken much notice of the Menomonee River since they really had no way to access it.

In devising plans to revitalize the valley, city leaders wanted the river to become an attraction, making it a sort-of “front door” to the area, Zetts added.

“We’re just really thrilled with the progress that’s been made in the (Menomonee) Valley to date,” she said.

The city typically pays for 70 percent of new riverwalk segments, leaving the rest of the cost to private-property owners.

The riverwalk has so far cost around $52 million. City officials argue that work has spurred development along the same route. Bob Harris, a project manager at the Milwaukee Department of City Development, recently told a Common Council committee that property values in that area have increased by about $1 billion since construction started on the riverwalk,

When extended into the Menomonee Valley, the riverwalk will look different than what trail-goers are used to in downtown and the Third Ward, noted Zetts.

For one, its pathway won’t hang over the river as it does in other places, since the buildings in this area don’t hug the river in the way that they do downtown. Rather, the Menomonee Valley part of the riverwalk will more closely resemble a “landscaped sidewalk,” she said. Second, businesses in the valley, unlike the apartments and shops located in the nearby Third Ward, tend to be industrial.

Still, a riverwalk in the Menomonee Valley should go a long way toward attracting more food-and-beverage businesses similar to the frozen pizza-maker Palermo’s Pizza and the craft brewery City Lights Brewing Co., Zetts said. With the latest extension of the public pathway nearby, businesses could sell some of their products directly to passers-by.

“Having that public access to the river would really be attractive to that type of user,” she said.

About Alex Zank, alex.zank@dailyreporter.com

Alex Zank is a construction reporter for The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 414-225-1820.

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