Posts tagged with "milwaukee lakefront":

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Five proposals highlight potential for a new park in Milwaukee’s Inner Harbor

Five teams are vying for a chance to design a small park in Milwaukee’s evolving Inner Harbor. The small two-lot site is just a small portion of the nearly 1,000 acres of waterfront which the city hopes to eventually transform. The Take Me to the River competition, initiated by the non-profit Harbor District, Inc., is the latest push to raise public interest in the mostly post-industrial landscape. Milwaukee’s harbor is still a working harbor but much of it is unused. Vast tracts of the land surrounding the harbor are either filled with abandoned industrial buildings or are contaminated brownfields. In recent years, some these structures have begun to be dismantled and the land remediated. One of the most significant additions to the area is the University of Wisconsin School of Freshwater Sciences, a leading research facility in the Great Lakes. Recently teams of architects—including Chicago-based Studio Gang, Toronto-based DTAH, Vancouver-based PWL, and Denver-based Wenk—weighed in on the harbor as part of a Harbor District-led design charrette. Though that charrette was not intended to produce buildable proposals, this latest competition does hope to create new public space for the area. The small site for the Take Me to the River competition is situated at the intersection of Greenfield Avenue and the Kinnickinnic River. Each of the five teams participating provided proposals that range from an extensive reshaping of the shoreline to interactive designs. The participating teams and their projects include:
  • SmithGroupJJR and TKWA UrbanLab – Welcome to the River
  • MKExTEN (Vetter Denk Architects, Ten X Ten, and Design Fugitives) – Urban Flashlights
  • La Dallman Architects and Alfred Benesch Engineering – Waterlily Landing
  • Quorum Architects and Ayres Associates – Slosh Park
  • UWM Inner Harbor Team (UWM, City as a Living Laboratory, Creative Lighting Design, SEH) – Access/Engagement/Education
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Studio Gang’s research-based approach to ecological design rethinks the shape of urban waterfronts

As Studio Gang gains respect as an office that builds formally and programmatically ambitious projects, one aspect in particular has helped the firm continue to be a major force: It is an office that does its homework. Every project that the studio does is accompanied by a body of research as well as collaborations with experts often outside of architecture. “As architects, we think of our role as being that of the translator,” explained Claire Cahan, design director at Studio Gang. “Early on in the project we bring in experts from interdisciplinary fields to discuss the past, present, and future conditions of a site. Our job is to ask questions and translate ideas between disciplines.” This becomes particularly visible in projects that involve water ecologies.

After a yearlong study in collaboration with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), the studio released Reverse Effect (2011). The book explored urban and ecological implications of severing the link between the Chicago River and the Mississippi River, effectively reversing the flow of the Chicago River to its original direction (something that has actually happened three times). The book presented a new Chicago that embraced a reshaped river as part of its cultural and civic space.

“We’re interested in the intersection between built and natural environments,” said Cahan about the office’s broader vision and approach. “While building projects typically have distinct property lines and boundaries, natural systems often intersect with property lines in a fluid way. Through research, which includes conversation, mapping, and analysis, we seek to understand the natural, cultural, economic conditions far beyond a property line.”

A similar study, in collaboration with Milwaukee-based Applied Ecological Services and Edgewater Resources, looked at the 1,000-acre Milwaukee harbor. The Edge Effect master plan set out to establish a framework and logic for Milwaukee’s waterfront development. The master plan envisions relocating the current active inner harbor to a new outer harbor, while bringing the city to the water’s edge. The process would include softening the coastline to achieve a more complete and sustainable ecosystem by learning from stable natural coastlines and reefs. This concept is already being deployed in the Studio Gang–designed improvements to Chicago’s Northerly Island, which has a similar geographic situation.

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A handful of new projects are transforming Milwaukee’s downtown skyline

With at least four new towers, all within a few blocks of one another, either completed or planned to be completed before 2020, Milwaukee’s skyline is seeing its greatest change in recent memory. Though the city’s East Side and Third Ward, immediately north and south of downtown, respectively, have seen modest development over the past 15 years, the downtown itself has been decidedly quiet for more than 20 years.

The first project to be finished was 833 East Michigan Avenue. At 18 stories, the $100 million tower is tall by Milwaukee standards. The multitenant office building was designed by Milwaukee-based Kahler Slater. With so few contemporary office buildings downtown, 833 East stands out with its integrated technology and open floor plans. And with views of Lake Michigan on three sides, the project is particularly appealing as the city continues to improve the lakefront.

Less than a block away, one of Milwaukee’s most recognized businesses, Northwestern Mutual, is doubling down on its investment here. The company’s 32-story, 1.1-million-square-foot office tower will be one of the cities largest and tallest buildings. The $450 million project includes the tower and a lowrise, with a two-block-long commons, which will connect the highrise to Northwestern Mutual’s other historic Benjamin H. Marshall–designed neoclassical office building. Designed by New Haven–based Pickard Chilton, the tower is a sweeping curve not dissimilar to Chicago’s 333 Wacker. Well underway, the project has already significantly changed downtown´s appearance. Much to the delight of the city, the tower will help maintain 1,100 jobs in the neighborhood, while potentially adding another 1,900. The commons will feature public spaces, including the new Northwestern Mutual Gardens, a visitors’ center, and a public cafe.

Northwestern Mutual is not stopping with a new office tower. Immediately northwest of the tower, site work has begun on its next investment, a 33-story residential, parking, and retail tower. Even though this structure, designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz, will be shorter than the office tower, it will add 300 residential units to a downtown that is almost completely devoid of housing. Northwestern Mutual’s decision to build both a residential and office tower in the often-sleepy downtown is intended to strengthen the city. “We believe in Milwaukee. It’s been our hometown for virtually all of our 155 years,” Northwestern Mutual chairman and CEO John E. Schlifske said. “This will be a signature development that makes a huge statement about the attractiveness of the whole Milwaukee metro area. We are going to be here and continue to play a vital role in this community for generations to come.”

Adding to the housing stock of the area, another skyscraper has just taken a major step toward becoming realized. The much-anticipated Couture, designed by Milwaukee-based Rinka|Chung, has recently received approval from the federal government for the demolition of the transit center that is currently on its site. Federal approval was required because the transit center was partially paid for with federal money. Local company Barrett Visionary Development is currently in the process of acquiring the land, and is expecting to start site work, including demolition, by August, with construction starting in earnest in early 2017. With completion of the $122 million project expected to wrap up in 2019, the Couture will rise 44 stories and include a public-transit concourse for Milwaukee’s forthcoming streetcar. The base of the tower will include 50,000 square feet of retail. Its position directly on Lincoln Memorial Boulevard means residents will have uninterrupted views of Lake Michigan, the Discovery World museum, the Santiago Calatrava–designed Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Eero Saarinen–designed War Memorial.

Rinka|Chung also has its hands in the planned Lakefront Gateway Project, which will help connect all of these developments to the lakefront. Led by Milwaukee-based GRAEF, a team comprising of Rinka|Chung, Vancouver-based PFS Studio, Toronto-based Dan Euser Waterarchitecture, and social event group NEWaukee, the Lakefront Gateway will bridge the busy Lincoln Memorial Boulevard. Its design, titled Urban Confluence, won out in a competition against teams lead by AECOM, James Corner Field Operations,  and the Office of James Burnett. The GRAEF design is intended to be a civic space and city icon, as well as a connection between downtown and the lakefront.

For those familiar with Milwaukee’s downtown, all of this development may come as a bit of a surprise, considering the extensive number of empty stores farther to the west of these new towers. But Mayor Tom Barrett believes investing in downtown is vital to the health of the city as a whole. “This is a once-in-a-generation chance to make an investment of this scale in downtown Milwaukee. It means more jobs, a stronger tax base, more community support, and more Northwestern Mutual employees giving back to all areas of the community,” he said.

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Milwaukee breaks ground on new 32-story tower complex

Construction has begun on the latest addition to Milwaukee's lakefront skyline, a sleek curving tower from Pickard Chilton. Gilbane Building Co. and C.G. Schmidt broke ground in August on the new 32-story headquarters of insurance giant Northwestern Mutual. A 1.1 million square foot complex spread over several buildings and a landscaped courtyard, the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons connects the firm's historic headquarters building to a new tower that will be among Milwaukee's tallest. The whole project, which is developed by Hines, is expected to wrap up in 2017. The new construction work follows demolition of a small existing building on East Mason Street. Northwestern Mutual says the new space will accommodate 1,900 more jobs within the firm. “This project will have a positive impact on both the Milwaukee skyline and the community, and we’re excited to see that now begin to take shape,” said Jon Pickard, principal of Pickard Chilton, in a statement. The design calls out to Santiago Calatrava's celebrated art museum across the street and, according to firm leadership, aims for "sophistication." By the time it's built, the new downtown campus could be just one of many substantial renovations to Milwaukee's Lake Michigan shoreline. Despite controversy surrounding its design and architectural authorship, expansions to the art museum are underway, as are plans to build tall downtown, which have stirred debate over lakefront park space in the city.