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Milwaukee Lakefront Gateway Project

The Lakefront Gateway project was a unique collaboration between the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and the State of Wisconsin. Its purpose was, and 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.


Completed thus far is the joint City/State initial phase of the project that included the re-design of ramps to 794, extension of Lincoln Memorial Drive from Clybourn Street to Chicago Street and the conversion of East Clybourn Street from a partial one way street into a boulevard style street. Also completed is a City project that extended Clybourn Street eastward to Discover World, and a collabrative project with Milwaukee World Festival rebuilt Harbor Drive into a modified configuration with a portion of the street recreated as a pedestrian/bicycle only street and plaza near the Summerfest mid-gate. 


Future Initiatives

A project to rebuild Michigan Street from Cass Street to Art Museum Drive is still in planning.  This project will include the rebuilding of the intersection of Michigan Street with Lincoln Memorial Drive, adding improved crossing, new bike lanes and other pedestrian amenities.  The project is planned to move forward following the beginning of the Couture project and Streetcar Lakefront Line, which will impact Michigan Street. 

 Plan View

 View looking east towards Discovery World

Also in development is a proposed new public space for the lakefront. Please see more information at Lakefront Gateway Plaza Design

Background on Project

Lakefront Gateway Area before

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 included 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, was recently completed 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 included increased living, working, and visitor populations in Downtown Milwaukee.  It sought maximizing  private-sector investment in Lakefront improvements while minimizing taxpayer outlay. Finally, it looked to enhanced access to Harbor Drive to improve development ability and links between the Third Ward and Lincoln Memorial Drive.

Other Recent Past Related Projects

WISDOT Hoan / I-794 Lake Freeway Project

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation recently completed the large infrastructure project for Interstate 794 from the Milwaukee River to Bay View. This included 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 had agreed to adjust/relocate key ramps that connect to Lincoln Memorial Drive in order for the larger vision to be achieved.  This modification are now in place. 

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




To view Past Intitiatives, Click Here

Final Lakefront Gateway Public Involvement Meeting - Public Information Meeting No. 3 

Downtown Information

Citywide Comprehensive Plan



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