Before the City's Riverwalk Initiative was formalized, limited project specific activity was underway along the river frontage concentrated in the downtown. Financed through a partnership between the property owner, the Greater Milwaukee Committee and the City of Milwaukee, the very first segment of Riverwalk was constructed adjacent to the Gimbels Department Store (now the Ivory Tusk Building) in 1985. At the time of construction, a Riverwalk Civics Committee was moving plans forward for a small park and boat landing at the foot of East Mason Street, a riverwalk along the east side of the Milwaukee Center, the Performing Arts Center and along Pere Marquette Park.
As the concept of a riverwalk system continued to materialize, property owners, in collaboration with the City, formed a Business Improvement District (BID) for the purpose of financing the construction and maintenance of downtown riverwalks. Approved by the Common Council in March, 1994, the district encompassess the portion of the Milwaukee River Corridor which runs through Milwaukee's downtown, from Pleasant Street south to Clybourn Street. The objective of BID No. 15 is to complete improvements along the river that will increase public access and promote, attract, stimulate and revitalize commerce and industry within the City. The constructed improvements within the district are adjacent to many of Milwaukee's major entertainment and recreational sites as well as numerous retail and dining establishments.
The Riverwalk BID and the City share the costs of Riverwalk construction and other Riverwalk capital expenditures in accordance with the terms of a development agreement. Property owners with a riverwalk constructed along their river frontage are solely responsible for maintaining such riverwalks to a standard acceptable to the City and the BID Board. If a property owner fails to maintain its riverwalk, either the city or the BID may perform the necessary work and the cost shall be assessed directly to the property.