The Beerline Recreational Trail is a former rail corridor named for the cargo that supported Milwaukee’s thriving breweries over a century ago. After the Beerline route was no longer active, this space became an abandoned swath of wasted urban space stretching northwest through the neighborhoods of Harambee and Riverwest.
About 10 years ago, Riverworks partnered with residents, local businesses and the City of Milwaukee to remove brush and debris along the portion of the trail between East Burleigh Street and East Keefe Avenue, paving a path for pedestrians and cyclists while forming the foundation for the continued revitalization of this public space.
The section of the Beerline Recreational Trail in the Harambee neighborhood that runs between East Keefe Avenue and East Capitol Drive was paved in the summer of 2015, providing residents with a practical route from their homes to the busy Capitol Drive commercial corridor. This land use takes up more space, providing more potential uses, not only as a trail, but also as a public park.
Through a grant from the nationally renowned Kresge Foundation, Riverworks has partnered with the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the City of Milwaukee and other stakeholders and residents as part of a collaborative process to determine how to best develop this space for recreational use. This creative placemaking grant encourages a holistic approach that incorporates a deliberate integration of arts and culture in revitalization efforts. With these concepts in mind, designer Walter Hood of Hood Studio out of Oakland, California, has been selected as the landscape architect who will work with residents and stakeholders to develop an ambitious vision and how we will transform those ideals into reality.
On March 11th, key project leaders gathered at Running Rebels on the northern part of the trail to participate in a workshop with Mr. Hood and his associates. Participants shared ideas and aspirations about the possibilities for the park through directed conversations around a variety of topics. These ideas were then assigned to small wooden train cars and placed on a scale model of the trail, revealing how big this space is and how many aspirations could fit, quite literally, into the park’s design.
The development of sustainable public spaces involves a far-reaching vision that is firmly rooted in the context of the past while being aligned with the spirit of the current times. What a neighborhood was, is and will be is a collaborative story that is always in motion. Public spaces, therefore, need to be designed with an understanding of how to adapt to the times while remaining a dependable constant in people’s lives. The Beerline Recreational Trail is well on its way to becoming this type of space.