Back to nature – Riverwalk section

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:22 pm

Ironwood walkway, natural plantings will set apart new stretch of RiverWalk

Work is well under way on a unique stretch of the Milwaukee RiverWalk – a half-mile section of walkway that will have an educational theme and that will be dramatically different in design and material usage from other sections of the downtown walkway.
Beyer Construction of New Berlin is handling the $5 million project, based on design work of the Engberg Anderson Design Partnership in Milwaukee.
The project involves construction of wood walkways, staircases and landscaping along the east bank of the Milwaukee River in the Historic Third Ward.
The project is being done in two phases, with the first phase planned for completion this November, said Ed Gorichs, a foreman with Beyer Construction.
The use of large, wooden planks and beams is just one of the distinguishing features of the new stretch of RiverWalk, which was originally conceived with the design impressions of New Your artist and urban designer Mary Miss. Engberg Anderson Design Partnership, through senior associate Paul Lourich, came up with the final design plans for the Third Ward RiverWalk, which is owned by the Historic Third Ward Association. Engberg Anderson Design Partnership has worked on other portions of the RiverWalk, as well.
Other stretches of the RiverWalk are constructed of pre-cast concrete with steel framing. On the new stretch, timbers as long as 20 feet and weighing as much as 600 pounds are being used for the frame, with Brazilian ironwood planks making up the walkway. The timbers are created from resin-imbued ironwood strands, notes Beyer senior project manager Robert Stroo. The dense nature of ironwood will keep the walkway solid for many years, but the resin scent should be gone in about a year.
While the manufacturer pre-cuts some of the timbers to specifications, others must be sized and cut on site as the job progresses, Gorichs said, noting the intricacies of the bends and curves of the walkway.
For Stroo, those intricacies and other elements of the project make it one of the more interesting he’s worked on, but also one that moves on a different pace from many other construction jobs these days, where many different craftsmen are working on various parts of the project all at once.
"This is a very sequential project," Stroo says, noting how each construction of each leg of the walkway depends on the unique measurements of the previous leg. "So its very restrictive in how the project can progress." Fortunately, the weather this summer has been very conducive to outdoor construction, he adds.
The Third Ward RiverWalk stretch will also be unique in its use of natural plantings and the way those plantings are cared for. Elsewhere, decorative annuals are planted in boxes that must be manually watered. The new stretch will have an irrigation system that will draw water – which will be filtered – from the river.
The Third Ward walkway will commence at the St. Paul Avenue bridge and move, in segments, toward Lake Michigan. It will be built in segments due to the inability to secure passage along some properties where owners or residents have existing boat piers or other riverside developments.
A pedestrian plaza will be created at Buffalo Street, featuring observation platforms and plantings. A sloped walkway will lead up to the observation platform. A second plaza with a concession area and boat rental facilities will be constructed along St. Paul Avenue. And a boardwalk, as wide as 35 feet, will be built next to the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design on Erie Street.
A proposal for a condominium at Water and Erie streets calls for that development to include a riverwalk.

Aug. 16, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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