The redevelopment of Port Milwaukee’s South Shore Cruise Dock is now scheduled to begin next spring after the city’s Common Council approved the remaining $2 million needed to start the project.
Aldermen adopted an amended 2023 city budget last week that included the $2 million. That funding is in addition to a $4 million capital tourism grant from the state and $1.285 million in matching funding from Port Milwaukee.
The South Shore Cruise Dock will serve as the future port-of-call for Seawaymax vessels such as the Viking Octantis cruise ship, which made its first trip to Milwaukee this spring. Seawaymax vessels are ships that are the maximum size that can fit through the canal locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Upgrades to the South Shore Cruise Dock could help promote Port Milwaukee as a cruising destination that is able to efficiently handle and welcome these larger vessels. The port had its most successful cruising season this year with over 13,000 passengers.
“I think we’ve exceeded our imaginations. We knew there was a ripe opportunity but to see 33 cruise visits thus far on the western edge of the Great Lakes has been a really spectacular accomplishment,” said Adam Tindall-Schlicht, recently resigned Port Milwaukee director, in an interview with BizTimes Media. “As I contemplate the future, I think Milwaukee’s sweet spot will continue to be 10,000 to 15,000 cruise passengers a year.
The South Shore Cruise Dock is one of two existing cruise ship docks along Port Milwaukee’s 470-acre waterfront — the other is the Pier Wisconsin Cruise Dock at Discovery World. The South Shore dock has a deeper draft for larger cruise vessels.
“Milwaukee is becoming the turnaround port of choice for international cruise lines operating on the Great Lakes. Now is the time to grow and plan for the future,” said Jackie Carter, acting Port Milwaukee director. “Port Milwaukee is grateful for the partnership of the Milwaukee Common Council in moving the redevelopment of South Shore Cruise Dock forward. Thanks to this investment and in the coming years, thousands of passengers will travel though South Shore to visit our city, stay in local hotels, dine in our restaurants, and enjoy all the great things Milwaukee offers.”
Port Milwaukee’s Capital Asset Renewal Plan (CARP) shows that the concrete dockwall segment of the South Shore Cruise Dock should be rehabilitated if commercial docking continues at the site. The CARP also recommends fender repairs at the dock site. The final construction plan is still being finalized.
A request for proposal is expected to be issued early next year pending approval by the Board of Harbor Commissioners.