Mayor Cavalier Johnson Signs Legislation Approving Connec+ing MKE: Downtown Plan 2040

New area plan represents inclusive vision for Downtown Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE – Mayor Cavalier Johnson recently signed File #230317, approving the new Downtown Area Plan, Connec+ing MKE: Downtown Plan 2040.

Co-led by the Milwaukee Department of City Development (DCD) and Milwaukee Downtown BID #21, this nearly two-year long planning process represents an inclusive vision of Downtown as a place for every resident, in every neighborhood, to feel welcome and connected to Milwaukee’s city center. The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously approved the legislation on Monday, July 31.

“The time is now to plan for Milwaukee’s growth and future. The Downtown Area Plan includes priorities, strategies, and approaches that will help determine what the city center of Milwaukee will look like in the decades ahead,” Mayor Cavalier Johnson said. “Thank you to DCD and BID #21 for their strong leadership in this planning effort. I am also grateful for every resident who made their voices heard during this process to ensure Connec+ing MKE is a plan by Milwaukee, for Milwaukee’s future.”

The last Downtown Area Plan was adopted in 2010 and included recommendations for streets, public spaces, and new development that aimed to foster a distinct Downtown center, a strong sense of place, a connected Downtown, and to attract a density of vibrant uses Downtown. Since 2010, more than $4.5 billion has been invested in completed private and public projects and more than $3.1 billion is currently under construction or proposed to start soon.

“Milwaukee experienced a major renaissance following the Downtown Area Plan’s adoption in 2010. Looking at how far we’ve come is inspiring, but we know there’s more work to do in creating our shared vision for the future of Downtown Milwaukee,” said DCD Commissioner Lafayette Crump. “Connec+ing MKE: Downtown Plan 2040 received robust public participation, with more than 2,500 individuals from every Milwaukee zip code providing feedback on their vision for the future of Downtown. Together, we are on a path towards ensuring our Downtown is stronger, more equitable, and easily accessible for every Milwaukeean.”

Public input received throughout the planning process helped shape six “big ideas” for how public and private investment can drive physical changes to Downtown. These ideas help demonstrate what is possible for the future of Downtown Milwaukee. These “big ideas” include growing Downtown’s population; investing in parks and gathering spaces; expanding and enhancing transit; reconnecting places divided by human-made barriers; improving streets to support all users; and redesigning streets as public places.

The Plan recommends a series of public and private development projects that have the potential to bring significant improvements to Downtown. Among those, seven are identified as catalytic projects, which represent high-priority projects with some of the largest potential to have transformative impacts Downtown, including generating momentum to spark complementary investments in the surrounding areas:

• Public Museum & State Office Building Redevelopment at MacArthur Square

• Public Space Management Organization for Parks & Public Spaces

• Extending the Streetcar (Westown, Bronzeville, Walker’s Point, and the East Side)

• 6th Street Complete Street

• Water Street Entertainment District

• Performing Arts Center Parking Garage Redevelopment Site

• Reimagining the I-794 & Clybourn Street Corridor

“The catalytic projects identified in the Connec+ing MKE: Downtown Plan 2040 provide a roadmap for continued growth and investment in our central business district,” said Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21. “We look forward to implementing the community’s vision and enhancing Downtown as a great place to live, work, play, learn, and do business – all connected by walkable streets, enhanced transit options, greater connectivity with surrounding neighborhoods, and active and inclusive gathering spaces and plazas.”

The vision set forth in Connec+ing MKE represents Milwaukee’s collective vision for its city center, and was generated through significant community engagement. This engagement included the formation of a Downtown Plan Community Council who helped shape plan recommendations through candid discussions surrounding racial and social equity, and by identifying opportunities to make Downtown Milwaukee more racially representative and inclusive. Key Downtown stakeholders served as a Plan Advisory Group to guide the recommendations of the Plan throughout the process.

“The Downtown Plan Community Council has been a pioneering approach to ensure all of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods feel connected to Downtown,” said Bregetta Wilson, Chair of the Downtown Plan Community Council. “The voice of actionable equity, diversity, and creativity came to life as the Downtown members engaged in the planning process. During the execution of the 2040 plan, it will be vital to leverage the Council as a critical resource for feedback and accountability.”

During nearly two years of engagement and outreach, the Connec+ing MKE: Downtown Plan 2040 received robust public participation at multiple community open houses, extensive feedback received on the online platform, small group meetings with stakeholder groups, and one-on-one discussions. In total, more than 2,500 individuals – including participants from all Milwaukee zip codes – provided input on their vision for the future of Downtown.

The plan’s catalytic projects would complement the progress made by the 2010 Downtown Area Plan. The catalytic projects identified in 2010 included: the addition of a fixed-rail streetcar system; the revitalization of Wisconsin Avenue; new circulation patterns, development and public spaces at the Lakefront Gateway; building a strong Broadway Connection to better link the central business district to the Historic Third Ward; developing the area around Pere Marquette Square with residential, commercial and entertainment uses; enhancing the Station Plaza/Milwaukee Intermodal Station area; improving accessibility to the underutilized MacArthur Square; and developing the Haymarket area into a mixed-use neighborhood with a public square.

Connec+ing MKE serves as the City’s Downtown Area Plan, one of 14 area plans that together serve as the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Updated and amended on an ongoing basis, the comprehensive plan guides neighborhood development with land use, urban design, and catalytic project recommendations.

The full plan is available at

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