The City of West Bend, Wisconsin, is perched along the banks of the meandering Milwaukee River and sits among the hills of the glacially-formed Kettle Moraine. It has become a popular destination for recreation and art enthusiasts alike, boasting over 1,200 acres of parks and green space, as well as the contemporary 4-acre campus of the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MoWA).
The City’s downtown area has seen a resurgence of activity in recent years, with MoWA opening a new, state-of-the-art building in 2013, and downtown investing in pedestrian and bike-friendly infrastructure to encourage use of the under-utilized riverfront. With help from a Wisconsin DNR grant, West Bend sought to improve a 1,500-foot stretch of property along the Milwaukee River, just behind the historic downtown, and fronting the art museum.
MSA was asked to design a Master Plan and vision for both east and west sides of the river, a two-phased project that will attract visitors to the riverfront, improve the appearance and functionality of businesses along it, and enhance the overall aesthetic of the riverwalk itself. This Downtown Riverwalk is part of a popular multi-use trail—the West Bend Milwaukee Riverfront Parkway—that spans the city.
MSA’s conceptual plan called for a generous and ADA-accessible walking path with key overlook areas, gathering and resting areas, direct access to the water, expanded green space and landscaping. Phase I, the east bank renovation, included the removal and replacement of deteriorating retaining walls with new, structurally-sound walls, utility relocations for aesthetic appeal, streambank restoration and stabilization, and replacement of an outdated pedestrian bridge with a new one. The design plan also introduces new walkways, gathering plazas and sitting walls, stairs to the river, and aesthetic theme lighting throughout. As the majority of this project is located below the 100-year flood elevation, specialty electrical design was done to account for the exposure to water.
Finishing touches and plantings were applied in spring of 2019, and the City welcomed residents, project stakeholders, partners and guests at a much-anticipated grand opening celebration on June 27, 2019.