Downtown draft plan envisions housing, recreation spaces for current Public Museum site, MacArthur Square

A draft plan for the Connec+ing MKE Downtown Plan 2040 re-envisions MacArthur Square and the site at along Wells Street where the outgoing Milwaukee Public Museum now sits. (Rendering courtesy of TKWA)

Last updated on April 28th, 2023 at 01:15 pm

Following a series of sneak peaks, Milwaukee’s Department of City Development released the full draft of its 2040 downtown plan.

The plan builds on ongoing efforts to make the city more pedestrian friendly, while also envisioning improved versions of popular gathering spaces in the city like Cathedral Square and Red Arrow Park. It also includes bold ideas for the north side of the 800 block of Wells Street where the Milwaukee Public Museum now sits, and for reconnecting the seldom-used, park-on-top-of-a-parking-ramp known as MacArthur Square.

Renderings for the re-imagined MacArthur Square show new soccer and basketball courts, and new seating, where now only vast, little-used greenspace exists. The plan also includes high-rise buildings along Wells Street on the site where the museum is currently located. The draft plan recommends redeveloping the site, which could be up for grabs as soon as the museum has settled into its new home in the Haymarket neighborhood, expected to occur in late 2026, with a “high-density mixed-use development” that includes “mixed-income housing and neighborhood supporting commercial uses on the ground floor.”

The plan also recommends extending the street grid north of West Wells Street and west of North Sixth Street and providing ADA compliant pedestrian access near the terminus of Kilbourn Avenue between James Lovell and 6th Street.

It also asks aldermen to consider creating “a high-quality public space to bridge the Sixth and Kilbourn ramps” in an effort to transition the more frequented areas of the neighborhood up to MacArthur Square.

Additionally, the plan discusses extending the streetcar to Westown, Bronzeville, Walker’s Point, and the East Side; making 6th Street a “complete street;” improving the Water Street Entertainment District; potential uses for the Marcus Performing Arts Center parking garage site; re-imagining the I-794 & Clybourn Street Corridor; and making the area around City Hall a more activated, pedestrian-friendly space.

A final public meeting and open house on the plan has been set for Thursday, May 11, from 3:30-6:30 p.m. at the 3rd St Market Hall within The Avenue, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave.

Those interested in reviewing the entire draft plan may do so at Dialogue is encouraged at, where users can continue to participate in the virtual open house and provide feedback until May 22.

The plan will be presented to the City Plan Commission and the Milwaukee Common Council for adoption as part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan this summer.

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Cara covers commercial and residential real estate. She has an extensive background in local government reporting and hopes to use her experience writing about both urban and rural redevelopment to better inform readers. Cara lives in Waukesha with her husband, a teenager, a toddler, a dog named Neutron, a bird named Potter, and a lizard named Peyoye. She loves music, food, and comedy, but not necessarily in that order.

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