Here at Milwaukee Record, we employ a sentient machine known as the Great Job Milwaukee Bot to keep track of the city’s many appearances on dopey online lists, as well as any time a national publication deigns to acknowledges our pathetic Midwest existence. In the past, the infernal machine has brought us news that Rolling Stone likes Summerfest, that Travel + Leisure thinks we’re ugly as dirt, and that Bay View is the 13th “hottest hipster market in America.” Now, just a week after comedian Bill Burr extolled the virtues of Milwaukee’s picturesque RiverWalk (and The Vanguard), the Bot brings us news that nonprofit research and education organization Urban Land Institute (ULI) has awarded our RiverWalk with its 2017-2018 Global Award of Excellence. Great job, RiverWalk!
The RiverWalk was one of 25 finalists for the 2017-2018 prize. Twenty of the finalists were located in North America, three in Asia, and two in Europe. Here’s what ULI had to say:
Milwaukee’s RiverWalk system draws hundreds of thousands of people to the shores of the Milwaukee River each year. Built through strong public/private partnerships, the RiverWalk is both a leisure space and a pedestrian thoroughfare. The accessible three-mile (4.8 km) system runs through the heart of downtown Milwaukee, with paths that average 12 feet wide (4 m) on each side of the river and public access points about every 400 feet (120 m).
Through a total investment of $52 million, properties adjacent to the RiverWalk have generated a $1 billion increase in property value since construction began. The RiverWalk has redefined downtown Milwaukee, helping create one of the most successful redevelopment corridors in Wisconsin and a lively commercial, residential, entertainment, and recreation center. Milwaukee has embraced the RiverWalk as a natural asset. Because people are invited to the water’s edge, new, imaginative additions have followed, including artwork and decoration, athletics and recreation, and dining and celebrations of Milwaukee’s culture.
During the 1980s, local leaders and property owners invited a renewed focus on the river. They saw the river as a way to connect downtown development with new business and leisure activities. In 1988, Mayor John Norquist announced the RiverWalk Initiative, a collaborative economic development plan to construct a downtown river walk.
The RiverWalk and its associated river cleanup were catalytic, advancing significant private sector investment in Milwaukee’s downtown. Developers transformed warehouses, tanneries, breweries, and an abandoned industrial corridor into 2,800 luxury and affordable residential units, 4.7 million square feet (437,000 sq m) of office space, 515 hotel rooms, performing arts centers, and dozens of riverfront businesses and restaurants.
Somewhere, the rictus grin of the Bronze Fonz grows slightly wider.