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City to turn some streets into public gathering places to curb reckless driving

By Madison Goldbeck,


The City of Milwaukee will turn some of its streets into public gathering places.

The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously approved the resolution on Tuesday. The idea is to repurpose those areas to try and cut down on dangerous driving.

The new interim plaza program will use low-cost materials to repurpose space deemed unsafe for people to walk. It is similar to the city's Active Streets Program which allowed businesses to expand into the public right of way during the pandemic.

The idea came from Mayor Cavalier Johnson's " Gathering Place Feasibility Study .

“Growing our network of gathering places is a goal of my administration,” Mayor Johnson said. “We look forward to seeing what creative activation the community can offer in these spaces as we partner to make Milwaukee a more vibrant, attractive city.”

The program has an annual permit that will be processed by the Department of Public Works (DPW). City officials say DPW is offering a grant program for selected recipients to help with the cost of installing a plaza. Three grants up to $30,000 to eligible organizations will be provided. The grant application opens March 21 and applications are due May 12.

Interim plazas must be installed by July 15.

“The interim plaza program builds on a legacy of DPW programs such as Active Streets for Business, special events permitting, and Paint the Pavement which view streets as places for people.” Commissioner of Public Works Jerrel Kruschke said.

The permit application and grant information can be found on the city's website.

Milwaukee considering interim public plaza program

Milwaukee considering interim public plaza program

Ryan Jenkins | March 13, 2023

MILWAUKEE — The City of Milwaukee is considering a proposal that would turn public streets into interim public plazas.

"We can transition our streets, which are public spaces, into places where people can gather," said Kate Riordan, senior transportation director in the City of Milwaukee.

Using barricades, planters, and other tools, the idea is to turn some parts of underutilized streets, like right turn lanes, into interim plazas to cut down on vehicle traffic. The proposed program is similar to the city's Active Streets Program that launched during the pandemic, allowing businesses to expand their footprint into the public right of way.

"The key difference here is that this is public space. It's open to everyone. They do not have to be patronizing a business," said Riordan.

The idea came from Mayor Cavalier Johnson's " Gathering Place Feasibility Study ."

The proposal has passed Common Council committees and is set to be voted on by the full Common Council on March 21.

Riordan said this program would not only offer more space for neighbors to hang out but could also help cut down on dangerous driving.

"It also starts to just start to shift our mindsets around what streets can be used for. Once we start creating these gathering spaces in streets, people start to see streets as a place for people and not just a place to speed through," she said.

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