Milwaukee RiverWalk earns global award of excellence

First time Wisconsin project receives ULI global award

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Milwaukee’s RiverWalk is one of 13 development projects in North America, Europe and Asia to win a Global Award of Excellence from the Urban Land Institute.

The Milwaukee Riverwalk in front of Schlitz Park.

The award marks the first time a Wisconsin project has received the global award, which is considered among the world’s highest honors from land use experts.

ULI has previously honored three projects in Milwaukee with product Awards of Excellence: The Grand Avenue, Schlitz Park, and East Pointe.

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“This award celebrates a great amenity in our city, and it also honors the people who have worked to make the RiverWalk such an asset,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. “The RiverWalk continues to expand because it adds to property values, to the attractiveness of real estate near the river, and, most importantly, it adds to our quality of life.”

Once complete, the Milwaukee RiverWalk, will stretch six miles from Humboldt Avenue on the city’s Lower East Side through downtown and the Historic Third Ward.

With a $52 million capital investment, including $36 million from the City of Milwaukee and $16 million from the private sector, the RiverWalk is considered a catalyst for the dozens of restaurants, offices and apartment buildings that have sprung up between the Third Ward and the East Side.

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Milwaukee’s RiverWalk, just south of Wells Street.
Credit: Shelly Tabor

Gary Grunau, long-time chair of the Milwaukee Riverwalk District, said over the last 25 years, an aggressive plan was undertaken to build the RiverWalk and create a new environment for residents and visitors.

Over the summer, two ULI jurors were in Milwaukee touring the Milwaukee River by boat, guided by Grunau, former Mayor John Norquist, former city planner Peter Park and former Milwaukee comptroller Wally Morics.

During an interview in August, Grunau called the RiverWalk was one of his proudest achievements.

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“Having gone through all of this gives you a more global outlook,” Grunau said. “Having the jury here, on the river, and bringing back all of these old buddies that helped you 20 years ago…It gives you an appreciation that maybe you didn’t take the time for before.”

The RiverWalk is open to the public 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with access points located throughout the entire system.

A local celebration of the RiverWalk’s Global Award of Excellence is planned for early 2018.

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