From Spur to Spectacular
Milwaukee is one of very few cities in the country to demolish an elevated freeway for the benefit of surrounding neighborhoods and to create new valuable land for development. The land was once the Park East Freeway, a mile-long spur that was built as part of a larger plan to encircle the Downtown business district with expressways.
The freeway project, however, was never completed due in part to opposition from neighborhood groups and businesses.
Though the land east of the spur had been cleared for the right-of-way needed to continue the Park East Freeway, it remained undeveloped until the state removed its designation as a transportation corridor. This led to the creation of the East Pointe Neighborhood, a community of shops, townhouses, condominiums and rental properties, part of a revival of residential construction in Downtown Milwaukee.
The success of the East Pointe Neighborhood and the resurgence of Downtown Milwaukee convinced officials the time was right to demolish Downtown freeways and replace them with mixed-use neighborhoods. In 1999, the removal of the spur was approved by the State of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee. Three years later, utilizing Federal ISTEA money and local Tax Increment Financing, removal of the Park East Freeway began.
The elevated freeway spur was replaced with the at-grade, six-lane McKinley Boulevard, which is fully connected to the existing and newly recreated street grid. New block configurations opened up 24 acres of downtown property for redevelopment.
Simultaneously, the City of Milwaukee created the Park East Redevelopment Plan that outlines development rules and guidelines in clear and easy to understand terms to assist developers through the entitlement process. The land became an open canvas with flexible zoning for developments that permits residential, office, retail, entertainment and light industrial uses.
Since the removal of the freeway the Park East Corridor has seen over $1,060,000,000 of private investment in development projects, with the potential for an additional investment of $250 million on the few remaining undeveloped parcels.
For more information or questions regarding the Park East Corridor, contact Lori Lutzka at (414) 286-5846 or Lori.Lutzka@milwaukee.gov