Milwaukee’s Clever Parking Crater Repair Strategy: A Colorful Mural

A couple of surface parking lots in MIlwaukee were dragging down downtown so the city applied a fresh coat of paint to make the space feel inviting again. Photo: PPS Placemaking
A couple of surface parking lots in Milwaukee were dragging down downtown so the city applied a fresh coat of paint to make the space feel inviting again. Photo: PPS Placemaking

Here’s a creative fix for the parking crater problem plaguing so many American cities: Milwaukee recently transformed part of one of its craters with a colorful paint scheme and some outdoor furniture.

Project for Public Spaces, which helped lead the project, says the space has been dubbed The Spot 4MKE, and is now hosting public events.

The goal was to clearly communicate to users and passersby that this area was now a place for people, not cars.

Team member Chris Socha of The Kubala Washatko Architects created a colorful site graphic (labor and materials were donated by local contractor Crowley Construction), and an initial suite of amenities including picnic tables, umbrellas, and games began to arrive on site. This basic infrastructure helped support a diverse range of programming over the first months of the project, from samba drum and dance rehearsals to storytelling events and performances by a local hula hooping group. The site was also home to a small mural project crafted by project partner True Skool.

Viewed from the 5th floor of the historic downtown Hilton, the transformation of the past six months comes into sharp focus. Since The Spot 4MKE currently occupies a small portion of the existing parking lots, the “before and after” condition of the place is self evident. Walk through the lobby and out onto the site and the contrast becomes even stronger. The Spot 4MKE is still a humble place, but it is full of evidence of a community that is trying to do things differently, a community that has the courage to lead with people and places, a community that understands that the project of making a more creative, inclusive, and prosperous city will never be finished.

The two surface parking lots improved by this demonstration project are city-owned, and Milwaukee is exploring other new uses, PPS reports.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Broken Sidewalk explains what Louisville can learn from Salt Lake City about improving its air quality. Seattle Bike Blog reports the local City Council recently approved a game-changing $400 million in spending for safer streets. And the Transportationist offers details on how high-occupancy toll lanes are proliferating, with the potential to reduce congestion dramatically.

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