Equipped with a colorfully signs and an engaging dispositions, an enclave of public planning stakeholders took over the corner of Wisconsin and Water Street, generating a little commotion to attract public participation. The Historic Third Ward Association is planning what to do about that dark nebula under the I-794 overpass that connects Downtown to the Third Ward. Accepting in-person comments from citizens allows the neighborhood associations in the downtown area to take the most accurate temperature of public opinions on increasing people friendly public spaces.
On a quest to bring the country’s infrastructure out of the industrialized age and into the modern, the American Society of Landscape Architects’ (ASLA) push for participation in other communities nationally puts Milwaukee in a peer group with other cities from Juneau, Alaska to Charleston, West Virginia, activating forward thinking land use planning professionals.
The Society’s national urban design campaign Your Environment Designed kicked-off August 17th and invited members of the landscape architecture industry to publicize their local efforts to gather feedback on projects they have in the hopper. Milwaukee’s project pulls the Historic Third Ward and Downtown Association in a huddle with land use planners from the various intersecting circles of commercial development, consulting, academia and local government, on a project rightfully named Brighten the Passage.
Brighten the Passage deals with an overpass. That means some convincing of the Federal Highway Administration may have to take place for the City of Milwaukee and the Third Ward Association to make the pass under more pleasant. Undaunted, one of the project’s participants, Gloria Stearns, expressed the primary planning focus for now hones in on drumming up public interest, design ideas and project funding. This purpose explains the enthusiasm with which Stearns and her compatriots juggled clipboards, pens and aerial photographs of the “passage” to share with those providing feedback.
During the Brighten the Passage kick-off, braving the wind on the Chase Building Plaza, interested citizens sketched crude overviews of their ideas, giving the organizers some direction of what people are thinking about the Downtown – Third Ward corridor. The Brighten the Passage project planners also draw inspiration from other countries and US states that view “remnant parcels” as opportunities for public art and gathering space.
Canada comes to the top of the list of countries, with cities like Toronto, that do more than beautify remnant parcels. With a structure dedicated to skateboarding underneath the freeway, one overpass in Toronto intentionally invites people activity. On the Puget Sound, Seattle receives accolades for projects like the I-5 Collonnade and Freeway Park that reduce undesirable people activity, such as vagrancy, and adds to the marketability and access to the surrounding land uses.
The Brighten the Passage campaign will lead to a design contest scheduled for the on-coming Fall season. The contest will likely provide guidance for the actual project. The Third Ward Association has yet to release the details and parameters of the 2011 Brighten the Passage Design Competition.
See what other communities around the country are doing through the Your Environment Designed Facebook page.
Brighten the Passage by David Reid of Urban Milwaukee
Third Ward Vision, I-794 Underpass Design Competition by L.S. Trolley, of Local Trolley