Milwaukee River Revival

Looking to the Future

Jul 20, 2012

In this concluding segment of our series, WUWM's Bob Bach and Marge Pitrof chat about the visions people shared with our reporters about future plans for the Milwaukee River, as well as its ongoing challenges.

Environmental Forecast

Jul 20, 2012

Past generations poured sewage, trash and industrial chemicals into the Milwaukee River.

Most of the direct dumping has ended, but as WUWM Environmental Reporter Susan Bence reports, run-off from the land continues to choke the river, as do occasional sewer overflows.

Early in Milwaukee’s history, residents flocked to the Milwaukee River to recreate. They gathered at the beer gardens and swimming schools that lined the shores, north of downtown.

By the end of the 1900s however, development and runoff had polluted the river, and the community began abandoning it. It wasn’t until about 1970 that comprehensive efforts began to remediate the problems.

The river is far from its pristine state. Yet in today’s installment of our series Milwaukee River Revival, WUWM’s Ann-Elise Henzl views how the river has again become a draw for leisure-time activities.

All week we’ve been taking a close look at the Milwaukee River. We heard about the waterway’s history – how the community used it decades ago for industry and transportation – to modern developments, such as luxury condominiums and trendy restaurants. Today, WUWM’s Erin Toner reports on the value of the Milwaukee River to downtown businesses.

Housing units and more have popped up along the Milwaukee River in recent times, as the city has accommodated development. For decades, the community polluted, then ignored the festering water. However, in contemporary times, there have been multi-pronged efforts to rehabilitate the resource. In today’s installment of our series, Milwaukee River Revival, WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson reports on the growth of eateries and watering holes. Quite a few have boating docks.

Before the economic downturn of the last decade, housing development – and sales, along Milwaukee’s downtown river were booming. The administration of former Mayor John Norquist and civic leaders at the time championed the resurgence of the historic corridor. It had decayed and people ignored the river. In Tuesday’s installment of our series, Milwaukee River Revival, WUWM’s LaToya Dennis reports that much to the delight of realtors, developers and local leaders, waterfront properties are again moving off the market.

Along the Milwaukee River, Optimism Abounds

Jul 16, 2012
Wiki Commons

All this week, WUWM News is exploring recent efforts to revitalize what was once a key thoroughfare through the city, but one which fell into decline decades ago. The Milwaukee River once was the catalyst for commerce and industry during the city's formative years and also provided recreation for the people who moved here. However, disregard for the river's health led to decades of decay.

We now continue our series about the revival of the Milwaukee River.

As we reported earlier, the City of Milwaukee exists here because of the river. It, with its mouth in Lake Michigan, supported commerce and industry in the early days, and provided recreation. However, no one tended the health of the river, so it decayed; and manufacturers left its banks, as trains and trucks replaced boats. The community abandoned the ailing Milwaukee River for decades, but a turnaround began in the 80s. The city initiated improvements, including Riverwalk, and worked with developers.

Historic Photo Collection / Milwaukee Public Library

If you want to view a thriving strip of the City of Milwaukee – hop a boat and cruise the Milwaukee River. New housing and repurposed old buildings line the waterfront and its adjoining neighborhoods. Most vessels that cruise the river these days are not the working types of generations past, but rather pleasure boats.