Group launches crowdsourcing effort to light the Hoan Bridge

Hopes to raise more than $1.5 million

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A group of Milwaukee business and civic leaders today announced the launch of a public crowdsourcing campaign to help raise more than $1.5 million to put lights on the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge.

The funds would be used to install thousands of LED lights on the bridge that connects downtown Milwaukee to the south shore. The crowdfunding campaign will be driven by individual bulb purchases and dedications, the group said in its announcement.

The Hoan Bridge.

“With the Light the Hoan campaign, we’re looking to do more than just light up Milwaukee’s skyline,” said Ian Abston, president of Millenian LLC and a group co-founder of the Light the Hoan group. “We’re hoping to enhance the Milwaukee brand by bringing more beauty and value to downtown, and by building a framework for collective community impact. The lighted bridge could become our generation’s version of the Calatrava at the Milwaukee Art Museum.”

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“The Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge has long been a symbol of Milwaukee,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “This effort to light the bridge up demonstrates the next generation’s commitment to putting their mark on the future of the city.”

Pending fundraising success, a public lighting ceremony is slated for next summer.

Construction of the Hoan Bridge was completed in 1974, but opposition to nearby freeway projects left it disconnected and unused, earning it the nickname “Bridge to Nowhere” until 1977 when it was finally connected to surface streets and opened for motorists. While it was disconnected, the bridge was used to film a scene in the movie, The Blues Brothers. The bridge is named for Daniel Hoan, who served more than 24 years as Milwaukee’s mayor.

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In 2015, the state completed a $278 million project to rebuild the Hoan Bridge. Originally the project was to include aesthetic lighting at a cost of $500,000 to $1 million. Those plans to light the bridge, at taxpayer expense, generated considerable controversy and were eventually quietly eliminated from the project.

Now, the new private fund-raising effort, Light the Hoan, will be a grassroots campaign to enhance Milwaukee’s skyline and also to “designate the structure as a symbolic representation of the positive stories that bridge Milwaukeeans together,” the group’s co-founder, Michael Hostad said.

“Far too often, we hear too much about the negative stories coming out of Milwaukee,” said Hostad. “While we cannot ignore those stories, we also know that every day, in every Milwaukee neighborhood, people are having a positive impact and building community. By illuminating the Hoan bridge, one bulb at a time, our mission is to share these acts of generosity and service so we can build pride in our city — and provide a catalyst for greater cultural and economic improvements.”

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Individuals can dedicate a lightbulb (or multiple bulbs) for $25 each to a person or organization who has “helped to make Milwaukee’s future brighter,” the Light the Hoan group says. Individuals can then view their light and dedication via the interactive website, where others can read them.

For more information, check out the Light the Hoan website.

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