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Milwaukee Lakefront Gateway Project

The Lakefront Gateway project is a unique collaboration between the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and the State of Wisconsin. Its purpose is to improve public spaces at the downtown lakefront, improve connections between the lakefront, downtown Milwaukee, and the Historic Third Ward, and create and enhance development sites.

UPDATE: Lakefront Gateway Plaza Design Competition




Milwaukee’s Downtown has one of the world’s most beautiful waterfront settings. The concave water’s edge provides an embracing relationship between Downtown and one of the largest and greatest freshwater bodies in the world. More than any other physical feature, the Lakefront defines Milwaukee. Identified as a “catalytic project” in the 2010 Downtown Plan update, the downtown Lakefront Gateway project seeks to achieve a number of objectives. Link to the downtown plan district chapter, here.

Specifically, goals for this project include significantly improved pedestrian access from Downtown to the Lakefront attractions, and enhancing a better sense of place and identity. The project seeks to calm traffic and create a sense of arrival for drivers on Lincoln Memorial Drive, while allowing for the ease and safety of vehicular access between Lincoln Memorial Drive and Michigan Street, Clybourn Street, and I-794.  Further, it looks to expand the emerging “world-class” character of Milwaukee’s Lakefront by developing a public plaza (where residual space exists today) and further enhancing the cultural campus that currently rivals the best waterfronts in the world.

Milwaukee Art Museum Discovery World
Summerfest North Gate - Milwaukee World Festivals Betty Brinn Children's Museum

Many strong assets currently exist on Milwaukee’s lakefront which is directly adjacent to the central business district of the city. Currently, a new office tower, designed by Pickard Chilton, is under construction for Northwestern Mutual Company.


In recent years, however, the community determined through various public planning processes, that connections were lacking in this narrow area between the downtown and lakefront, and the public spaces were not at their full potential. A Lakefront Gateway Project was conceived. The project brought together efforts of the City, County and State, along with efforts of the private sector.

The larger Lakefront Gateway Project has three main components: public spaces, streets and highways, and private sector development sites. The Gateway project’s phases 1 & 2 are focused on relocation of expressway ramps, creation of new streets and re-design of others, and improvements to pedestrian and bicycle connections.  Adjacent new private development is in process.  Through these steps, the projects end goals include increased living, working, and visitor populations in Downtown Milwaukee.  It seeks maximizing private-sector investment in Lakefront improvements while minimizing taxpayer outlay. Finally, it looks to enhanced access to Harbor Drive to improve development ability and links between the Third Ward and Lincoln Memorial Drive.

Other Related Projects


WISDOT Hoan / I-794 Lake Freeway Project


The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is in the midst of large infrastructure project for Interstate 794 from the Milwaukee River to Bay View. This includes the elevated highway between the downtown and Third Ward, the Lake Interchange and the Hoan Bridge. In light of the Lakefront Gateway project, the State has agreed to adjust/relocate key ramps that connect to Lincoln Memorial Drive in order for the larger vision to be achieved.

To learn more of this project, please visit their website.

Spring Newsletter for Hoan / I-794 Lake Freeway Project, here.



Past Initiatives


*Image created by Eppstein Uhen Architects
Image of proposed Michigan Street design concept looking east
To view Past Intitiatives, Click Here



Public Involvement - Public Information Meeting No. 3


Lakefront Gateway Project Resources

    Downtown Information
    Citywide Comprehensive Plan


Future Initiatives


Design of local streets and Lake Interchange ramps will occur through 2014 and continue into 2015, along with design of public spaces, streetscaping, way-finding and other project elements.


New initiatives will be posted on the website as information becomes available.