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The Beerline Trail Equitable Implementation Plan received an American Planning Association – Wisconsin Chapter 2020 Planning Excellence award. The project was the first ever SPARK Award for APA Wisconsin. The APA’s annual awards give recognition to outstanding achievements and innovations in planning and publicize persons and organizations whose activities advance planning in Wisconsin.
The Beerline Trail is a formerly underutilized railroad right-of-way that lays diagonally across the Milwaukee neighborhoods of Harambee and Riverwest. Since 2002, the City of Milwaukee and community partners have cleared railroad tracks and made the right-of-way accessible to the neighborhood as a connective corridor and green space, bridging the two unique neighborhoods. Now paved and equipped with public art pieces, seating space, and park programming, the Beerline Trail aims to be a catalyst for community and economic development.
“The Beerline Trail Equitable Implementation Plan was created to ensure the next phases of trail development was community-focused, and that other development inspired by and centered around the trail space benefits adjacent residents and businesses equitably. To that end, this project has been closely informed by the community and Riverworks Business Improvement District as well as many partners,” said Darryl Johnson, Riverworks Development Corporation, the lead community agency located in the Harambee neighborhood.
Facilitated through a contract with GRAEF, multi-discipline, architectural engineering, planning, and design firm serving clients throughout the United States, the Beerline Trail Equitable Implementation Plan reflects extensive community input and serves as a roadmap for the priority goals and projects. The overall plan includes details on trail extensions and access improvements, design and buildout of the linear park, trail programming and maintenance, a guide to equitable development and entrepreneurship, and success measures.
“As a vibrant public space which bridges neighborhoods and disciplines, the Beerline Trail is a shining example of Milwaukee’s focus on access and equity and what we can accomplish when we work together. The project has already improved access and connection in the region, and our ongoing work and shared vision will lead to continued benefit for the community.” said Julia Taylor, President of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.
The multi-disciplinary vision of the plan includes connecting neighbors through investments in properties and green space, inclusive communications to build neighbor participation, growing the Riverworks area as a neighborhood-based creative district, and stabilizing the housing market to address economic disparity for current residents.
“The Beerline Trail Linear Park envisioned in the plan, with its design and other green spaces, is a step beyond our traditional view of a park. It connects neighbors with recreational trails and introduces art, sustainability, landscaping, and health to the park. In the planning, residents and businesses have been engaged so that the park lifts all parts of the neighborhood,” said Mayor Tom Barrett from the City of Milwaukee. The City has already invested more than $2 million into the project.
Kristan Sanchez, VP Awards, for APA-Wisconsin Chapter said the awards jury found the project to be award worthy, the emphasis on equity and ensuring that residents and business owners are front and center, the level of government and private funding and partnerships, and the connection to Rails to Trails Conservancy to ensure the project links to the larger regional trail system.
“The Beerline Trail Neighborhood Development Project is uniting two intersecting neighborhoods as a hub for artists, makers, and other creative entrepreneurs, as well as offering a healthy, safe recreational environment for residents. The plans include several immediate projects like the “Connector Building” which will serve as a visitor gateway, and home-base for community artisans and entrepreneurs.” Our goal is to spur greater economic growth within this vibrant, predominately African American community,” said Beth Haskovec, Program Officer at LISC Milwaukee. LISC facilitated and funded the Equitable Implementation Plan in partnership with the City of Milwaukee.
Key collaborators in the planning and overall project include the City of Milwaukee, Riverworks Development Corporation, Riverworks Business Improvement District, City of Milwaukee, LISC Milwaukee, Greater Milwaukee Committee, MKE<->LAX, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, and the Guiding Lenses Group representing residents adjacent to the trail.