IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 25, 2023
Mayor Cavalier Johnson Signs Resolution Approving Funding Proposal for Vel R. Phillips Plaza
More than $15 million will create a public space named in honor of the iconic Milwaukee political activist and civil rights leader featuring both civic and transit amenities
MILWAUKEE – On April 24, Mayor Cavalier Johnson signed Common Council file #221817, a resolution approving the funding for the construction of a new public plaza to be named in honor of Milwaukee politician, attorney, jurist and civil rights activist, Vel R. Phillips. Mayor Johnson was joined by members of the Milwaukee Common Council, a representative from the family of Vel R. Phillips, and local leaders and stakeholders in advancing this financing package that will move the future plaza forward.
Vel R. Phillips was both the first African American and first woman elected to the Milwaukee Common Council, the first female judge in Milwaukee County and the first black judge in the State of Wisconsin. She was the first woman to hold the office of Secretary of State in Wisconsin and the first African American to win a statewide election. Up until her passing in April of 2018, Phillips was an active leader in pushing for social justice, education and equal opportunities for minorities in Milwaukee.
“We are proud to honor a pioneer who moved Milwaukee and Wisconsin forward. The Vel R. Phillips Plaza, named in recognition of the iconic political activist and civil rights leader, will add to the positive momentum taking place in the Westown neighborhood, which is witnessing a string of exciting development, investment, and activity,” Mayor Johnson said. “I am a strong supporter of gathering places and plazas. From economic development benefits and expanded public transit connections, to cultural and educational opportunities that are accessible for all, gathering places enhance the quality of life in our communities. I am looking forward to this plaza honoring the legacy, activism, and public service of Vel R. Phillips, as well as providing a dynamic and active gathering place for the community to utilize and enjoy for years to come.”
The future Vel R. Phillips Plaza will be situated south of Wisconsin Avenue between North 5th Street and North Vel R. Phillips Avenue. The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously approved an amendment to Tax Incremental District (TID) #48 (Park East Corridor Redevelopment) that will provide $15,750,000 for the construction of the approximately 30,000 square foot plaza, a 2,900 square foot food/beverage retail space, a manicured garden, a flex space that could host farmers markets, food trucks or other community events, an informational kiosk, public art installations, and a station to accommodate Milwaukee County’s Bus-Rapid Transit Line.
The financing package also includes $4.35 million for infrastructure and lighting improvements in the area and $500,000 for the Commercial Revitalization Grant Program that provides financial assistance to commercial property owners for building renovations and improvements.
The project plan preserves over 50,000 square feet of space on the site for future development. The parcel’s proximity to numerous other Westown developments including Fiserv Forum and the Deer District, The Avenue and 3rd Street Market Hall, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the future global headquarters for Fiserv, Inc. and a new Kohl’s department store location at Hub 640, the Hilton, and improved connectivity provided by the future Vel R. Phillips plaza make for an attractive development opportunity in the heart of a fast-growing area of the city. The Department of City Development will soon reissue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for this key parcel in Downtown Milwaukee.
The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM) is currently seeking proposals from qualified vendors to plan, manage and operate food and beverage concessions at the future Vel R. Phillips Plaza. Learn more at milwaukee.gov/DCD/Projects/RFPs.