Green Lots 

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Parking Lot Beautification Grants (Currently not accepting applications)

Parking lots are a necessary part of life in Milwaukee but that doesn't mean they can't be green! The parking lot is the first thing your customers or guests see before entering your business. Updating your landscaping to include additional green space or stormwater management can transform it into a vibrant and welcoming space while also making Milwaukee a more sustainable and beautiful place to live and visit. 

The City of Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO) is offering one time grants to help local businesses create more beautiful and environmentally friendly parking lots.


While all eligible projects are welcome to apply, priority will be given to...

  • Small and local businesses or non-profits. 
  • Projects located on major commercial streets. 
  • Projects that replace pavement on property with additional green space, trees, and shrubs. 
  • Businesses making voluntary landscaping improvements. 
  • Projects that make a demonstrate impact on the surrounding community. 


Grants will be awarded ranging from $1,000 to $8,000. Parking Lot Beautification Grants may be paired with other funding programs, including those administered by the City of Milwaukee. 

Funds will be reimbursed following the successful completion of a proposed project and will not be provided in advance for any reason. Parking Lot Beautification Grants will not be considered for projects that have begun construction prior to project approval. 

Beautification Grant funds are available for trees, shrubs and bushes, native flowers, small plants, grasses, pavement removal, and topsoil. The Landscape Design Guide for Parking Lots in the City of Milwaukee, provided by the Department of City Development, includes size and species requirements for plants and trees. Beautification Grants will only fund landscaping elements in compliance with these requirements. 

Landscape Design Guide for Parking Lots in the City of  Milwaukee

Please note, de-paving will only be funded if existing pavement will be replaced with additional green space, using at least 18" of a 70/30 soil to compost mix. (Why is this important? Learn more here!

Projects will be funded in accordance with the following chart without exceeding the $8,000 project maximum. Funds will not be allocated for hardscape elements of City Landscape Design requirements such as ornamental metal fences or masonry walls. 

Chart: MAXIMUM Reimbursement Rates; Project component vs Max. Rate. Trees (minimum 2.5" diameter) max rate $150/tree, Shrubs and Bushes (minimum 3 gallon container, 1.5 ft. tall) $25/bush, Top soil native flowers small plants and grasses $0.70/ft^2, De-paving (asphalt or concrete removal) $2/ft^2

How to Apply: 

Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis until funds have been fully allocated. Applications must be submitted by the 15th to be considered for review at the end of that given month. This site will be updated when funds have been fully allocated for the year.  

Application packages must include the following information in order to illustrate the impact of the project and its costs. Failure to provide required information will delay the review process. The items submitted should include: 

  • A completed application form
  • W-9 Tax Form
  • Written consent from the property owner (if not applicant) giving permission to conduct landscaping improvements. 
  • Color photographs of existing conditions. 
  • A Landscape Screening Plan or 2D Rendering.

While not required at the time of application, applicants are expected to acquire all necessary permits and licensing through City of Milwaukee Permit and Development Center. 

Questions regarding the grant program and completed application may be directed to:
Environmental Collaboration Office
200 E. Wells St. Rm 603
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Commercial Green Infrastructure Grants

Over 45% of Milwaukee is comprised of hard, impervious surfaces like parking lots, streets, and roofs. This means when it rains, the water can't filter back into the soil like it would in a forest or a prairie. This can contribute to poor water quality, sewer backups, and even flooding. 

The City of Milwaukee is partnering with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) to combat this with green infrastructure, which uses stormwater management to protect, restore, or mimic a natural water cycle. 

You can join us by applying for a Commercial Green Infrastructure Grant from the City of Milwaukee. If you have a paved parking lot or other handscape, this program can provide up to $25,000 for green infrastructure design and/or implementation. 

Click here to learn more about green infrastructure! 



All local, non-residential, private property owners are welcome to apply for funding, including 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations, universities and other educational institutions, daycares, funeral homes, and properties owned by religious groups. 

Proposed project must be...

  • Located within the City of Milwaukee
  • On a non-residential property
  • Outside of the Central Business District (CBD). 
  • Separated by a minimum of ten feet laterally from known underground sanitary sewer infrastucture and other underground utilities
  • Capable of capturing greater than 32,000 gallons per 2" rain event. 

You can calculate your projects approximate stormwater capture using MMSD's easy to use, online Green Infrastructure Sizing Tool. This will be required for all applications. Questions regarding the Sizing Tool may be directed to the Freshcoast Guardian Resource Center: 

247 Freshwater Way, Suite 440
Milwauke, WI 53204
(414) 225-222

Green infrastructure NOT eligible for reimbursement include: 

  • Illicit connection detection and removal programs
  • Construction site erosion and sediment control efforts (unless related to constructing post construction green infrastructure practice)
  • Work required under court order
  • Work to correct illegal circumstances
  • Investigation or inspection work not related to green infrastructure
  • Maintenance of existing green infrastructure
  • BMP Land Acquisition 
  • Stormwater/Development code revisions
  • Stormwater ponds

The property owner must be current in the payment of all obligations secured by the subject property, including property taxes, assessments, and tax liens, and have ahd no delinquencies wih the past 3 years.


Funding is available for rain gardens, bioswales or bioretention areas, pavement or asphalt removal, porous pavement, green roofs, and native plants and trees (when implemented in conjunction with other green infrastructure). 

Green Infrastructure Grants can fund up to 50% of total project costs, not exceeding $25,000. Total project costs must exceed $25,000. This program may be paired with other governmental grant programs including but not limited to MMSD's Green Infrastructure Partnership Program or the City of Milwaukee Parking Lot Beautification Program

Grant money will be provided following demonstrated completion of an accepted project and a signed ten-year conservation easement on the property, as drafted by MMSD. Funding will not normally be advanced to a project sponsor for any project. 

Please note: funds used for the following purposes cannot exceed 20% of total amount requested from the City of Milwaukee: 

  • Inspection of green infrastructure at any stage of planning or implementation.
  • Green infrastructure information and educational efforts.
  • Staff and consultant time to prepare green infrastructure reports and applications. 

How to Apply: 

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis once the application period has begun in 2020. 

Application packages must include the following information in order to illustrate the impact of the project and its costs. Failure to provide required information will delay the review process. The items submitted should include: 

  • A completed application form
  • Color photographs of existing property conditions
  • Site plan for proposed green infrastructure
  • W-9 Tax Form 
  • Output of Green Infrastructure Sizing Tool (printout of Green Infrastructure Strategy with Cross Section page)

The Review Committee may prioritize projects that meet the following criteria: 

  • Projects that divert stormwater from public right-of-way to safely manage on private property or manage large amounts of stormwater from surrounding impervious areas. 
  • Projects located in highly visible or heavily trafficked areas of Milwaukee, such as an established commerical corridor. 
  • Small or local businesses that do not represent national franchises or retail chain stores. 
  • Project sites identified as higher priority by the City of Milwaukee Green Infrastructure Plan.  

Milwaukee's Ban on Tar-Based Sealants

Pavement sealants are the black coatings that are commonly spread on paved surfaces as a maintenance practice. Some sealant products, such as coal tar sealants, contain high levels of PAHs, a class of harmful pollutants. Many PAHs are toxic to wildlife and can cause cancer and other health problems in humans.

Milwaukee adopted an ordinance prohibiting the sale and use of coal tar pavement sealant products and any pavement sealant product containing > 1% polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) by weight. This ordinance was passed to improve and protect public health and the water quality of Milwaukee and neighboring water resources.

Purpose of the Ordinance

Pavement sealants are commonly applied to driveways, parking lots, playgrounds, and private roads to provide maintain a deep black color and to protect the underlying pavement. Some types of pavement sealants, particularly coal tar sealants, contain high levels of PAHs. Many PAHs are toxic, carcinogenic (cancer-causing), and/or cause birth defects or developmental problems in humans and animals.

There are many sources of PAHs to the environment, but coal tar sealants contain hundreds to thousands of times more PAHs than other sources like vehicle exhaust or motor oil. A recent United States Geological Survey study of rivers and streams in the greater Milwaukee area found that 75% of the PAHs in the sediment were coming from coal tar pavement sealants.

Children living next to coal tar sealed pavement are estimated to have 14 times higher cancer risks, due to inhaling or incidentally ingesting particles as they play on and around these surfaces. Particles are also blown or tracked into homes, increasing exposure. The American Medical Association and other public health experts have reviewed the evidence and support bans of these products to protect public health.

How to Comply with the Ordinance

Under this ordinance:

  • No person shall apply coal tar or any other high PAH sealant product within the City of Milwaukee.
  • No person shall allow coal tar or any other high PAH sealant product to be applied on property under that person’s ownership or control within the City of Milwaukee.
  • No person shall sell coal tar or any other high PAH sealant product within the City of Milwaukee.
  • Any person selling pavement sealants products in the City of Milwaukee must display a sign informing customers of the prohibition.
  • Any person who applies prohibited products is subject to a fine of at least $1,000 and up to $10,000 per violation.

There are sealant products that contain fewer or no PAHs. Asphalt emulsion sealants are widely available and contain about a thousand times fewer PAHs. Acrylic or latex sealants contain no PAHs.

Do not use or allow contractors to use high PAH sealants on your property. Look at the ingredients listed on product’s label or material safety data sheet (which distributors and contractors should be able to provide) and avoid products listing any of the following terms:

coal tar, coal tar pitch, coal tar distillates, RT-12, refined tar, refined coal tar pitch, coal tar pitch volatiles, tar, steam-cracked petroleum residue, steam-cracked asphalt, pyrolysis fuel oil, pyrolysis oil, heavy aromatic pyrolysis oil, heavy fuel oil (HFO), heavy pyrolysis oil (HPO), ethylene tar, ethylene bottoms

or chemical abstract service (CAS) numbers:

65996-92-1; 65996-93-2; 65996-89-6; 8007-45-2; 64742-90-1; 69013-21-4

If you believe someone is using an illegal coal-tar sealant, please contact the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works at: (414) 286-2489

Additional Information

United States Geological Survey Website on the Issue:

United State Environmental Protection Agency factsheet:



 Green Lots


 City Hall, 200 E. Wells Street, Room 603, Milwaukee, WI 53202 

 Monday - Friday, 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM

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