Mayor’s Design Awards applaud new buildings, restaurant, corridor and public space innovations

Projects ranged from Ascent to restaurants like The Packing House, and public schools repurposing underused asphalt parking lots and playgrounds

A design from Milwaukee-based Galbraith Carnahan Architects helped transform a former bank building in the Uptown Crossing neighborhood into a food and retail hall. The North Avenue Market is just one of 20 recipients of the 2023 Mayor’s Design Awards. (Photo provided by the City of Milwaukee)

Last updated on May 26th, 2023 at 01:53 pm

Twenty building, landscape, and infrastructure projects in Milwaukee – from New Land Enterprise’s Ascent apartment tower to an effort that turned asphalt school playgrounds into vibrant green spaces — are recipients of the 2023 Mayor’s Design Awards.

In their 26th year, the Mayor’s Design Awards honor design excellence for development and building projects throughout the city of Milwaukee.

This year, the awards recognized projects in three categories, projects that have made streets and public spaces more attractive and inviting; efforts that have made commercial corridors more pedestrian-friendly; and projects that have added value to the city by providing new or improved options for housing, office or manufacturing space while adding jobs or strengthening neighborhoods.

“Milwaukee is witnessing tremendous growth and activity. New buildings, outdoor spaces, attractions, and landscaping are adding to the fabric of our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson. “These awards celebrate the innovative efforts that make our city a great place to live, work, and have fun. I am excited to recognize these deserving projects that showcase the power of urban design to build stronger communities and move Milwaukee forward.”

Recipients were recognized during a ceremony at the UW-Milwaukee School of Architecture & Urban Planning this week.

Here’s a few images of some of the award-winning projects
All 20 award recipient projects, as described by the city, are listed below the photo gallery. All images were provided by the City of Milwaukee.


Places and Spaces

Cohort 4 Green and Healthy Schools

For several years, a group of community organizations have been working to transform asphalt school yards into sustainable community green spaces. This work has taken place in neighborhoods throughout Milwaukee at five MPS school yards, including Benjamin Franklin School, Hayes Bilingual, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Neeskara, and Zablocki. This project was made possible by MPS, Reflo, MMSD, Fund for Lake Michigan, the City of Milwaukee, and the UW-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning’s Community Design Solutions.

Green Bay Playfield and Burnham Playfield

In the Williamsburg Heights neighborhood, MKE REC worked to revitalize two community play spaces that now feature new basketball and tennis courts, splash pads, upgraded playground equipment, an outdoor classroom, and a new kickball and football field.

Milwaukee School of Engineering’s University Terrace

As part of MSOE’s ongoing investment in their downtown campus, this project transformed a surface parking lot into a vibrant green space with landscaping, walking paths, and areas to relax.

Packing House’s Restaurant Patio

The Packing House’s new brick patio features a six-foot long fireplace, a waterfall feature, a retractable roof, and heaters. The new patio was built on a portion of an existing surface parking lot, demonstrating the power of utilizing these spaces to create new gathering places and outdoor spaces.

Neighborhood Markers Project

The Near West Side Partners deployed federal funding to create seven sculptures throughout seven Near West Side neighborhoods: Avenues West, Cold Spring Park, Historic Concordia, Martin Drive, Merrill Park, Miller Valley, and Piggsville. The sculptures, created by artists Brandon Minga and Andre Saint-Louis, detail the stories of Milwaukee’s indigenous history, culture, and architecture that remains in the neighborhood.

Green Tech Station

The City of Milwaukee acquired this site in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor and began environmental cleanup in 2016. Northwest Side Community Development Corporation and various community partners became involved to raise funds and reimagine the space into a green infrastructure destination.

Today, Green Tech Station can capture over 100,000 gallons of stormwater every time it rains, and it features an outdoor classroom, green infrastructure amenities, and a unique mosaic created with 12,000 repurposed plastic bottle caps.

Vibrant Corridors

Sherman Park Grocery Store

This new hub for fresh, nutritious foods opened last year after Sherman Park residents voiced their desire for a community grocery store. The second level of the property is a hydroponics farm, which supplies a portion of the grocery store’s produce. This new community asset is also an example of how the city supports new small businesses with Fresh Food Access funds and Commercial Revitalization Grant funding.

145-151 & 153 S. First St.

LAS Investments are repurposing a row of properties in Walker’s Point to have first-floor commercial space with housing above. This row of renovated buildings is more than a century old. The buildings’ facades have also undergone vast improvements.

Cream City Lofts

Milwaukee’s history enthusiasts will recognize this building as the former John Nazro & Company hardware warehouse built in the 1850s. After a significant renovation and restoration effort led by Joseph Property Development, the building is now Cream City Lofts, a 40-unit apartment development featuring a rooftop deck and commercial space on the first floor. They also completed a façade restoration during the revitalization effort.

Harley-Davidson Museum’s The Garage

This new addition to the existing Harley-Davidson Museum campus is a year-round event space with indoor and outdoor seating, as well as amazing views of the nearby Menomonee River.

Hue Vietnamese Restaurant

This longstanding Bay View restaurant owned by Cat Tran and Mark Nielsen recently reopened, expanding a small one-story café building into a mixed-use building that fills out the corner with a new lounge and patio. The building also includes three apartments on the second floor. The City of Milwaukee supported Hue’s renovations with Commercial Revitalization Grant funding.

Three Leaf Development at Brady and Marshall

This mixed-used building, led by Three Leaf Development, was built on a city-owned vacant lot. This development includes a first-floor commercial space and a second-floor apartment unit, helping create a more cohesive and continuous built environment along Brady Street.

North Avenue Market

What was once a former bank building is now a community food and retail hall located on the border of Milwaukee and Wauwatosa in the Uptown Crossing neighborhood. North Avenue Market offers a coffee shop, bar, food vendors, conference rooms, co-working office, pop-up space, a stage, speakeasy, drive-thru, and much more. Funds from DCD’s Commercial Revitalization Grant Program played a key role in North Avenue Market’s building renovations and improvements.


This new community center in the Garden Homes neighborhood was part of a city land sale and provides a space for job skills training, professional development, and youth recreation. Shechem, operated by Hope Street Ministry, offers the neighborhood a gym, classrooms, café, rooftop garden, and courtyard.

Urban Renaissance

Westlawn Renaissance IV and VI

The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee has been working for years to expand and improve Westlawn Gardens to provide supportive housing and services for residents in need. One of the latest additions is Westlawn Renaissance IV, which added two midrise buildings that include 60 housing units. Of those 60 units, 30 are reserved for youth aging out of foster care. Westlawn Renaissance VI added 138 units of affordable housing in a wide variety of housing styles and color themes.

The Wheatley

Royal Capital converted a former MPS school into a residential building, offering 42 affordable-rate apartment units in the renovated Phillis Wheatley School, as well as 40 apartments in the new building that was built along Meinecke Avenue. The city provided tax incremental financing to support this development, and WHEDA allocated low-income tax credits.

R1ver One & Tribute Apartments

This new development by Michels Corp. is generating new economic activity in the Harbor District and promoting public access on the Kinnickinnic River. R1ver One features office space, retail space, and a 125-room hotel. The Tribute Apartments include 95 apartment units, as well as a connected restaurant, The Bridgewater. Of note, R1ver One is home to the Harbor District’s first publicly-accessible RiverWalk extension.

Rite-Hite headquarters

Located in the Reed Street Yards Business Park, Rite-Hite’s new headquarters includes two office buildings with a reflective glass edifice and a parking structure with a connected skywalk.

Komatsu Mining Corp.’s Harbor District campus

Located at the eastern end of Greenfield Avenue overlooking Milwaukee’s inner harbor, the 59-acre complex includes a 430,000-square-foot factory and 176,000-square-foot office building. The development features wind spires atop the parking garage and a solar array on the factory’s roof. The campus occupies a site that used to house Solvay Coke & Gas. A mix of city and state tax incentives helped make the development a reality. Eventually more than 1,000 employees will work at the facility.

Ascent MKE

This 259-unit luxury mass-timber apartment building includes retail space, an elevated pool, and a sky-deck. New Land Enterprises sourced sustainably forested renewable mass timber to construct this development, which is currently the tallest mass timber structure in the world.

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Cara covers nonprofits, healthcare and education for BizTimes. 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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