Can Milwaukee Build a Downtown Stadium That’s Not a Disaster?

The ground floor is what matters in an urban neighborhood, says Urban MIlwaukee, and on that measure this stadium is lacking.
The ground floor is what matters in a downtown, and on that measure the design of the Milwaukee Bucks’ new stadium is lacking.

A promotional video for the Milwaukee Bucks’ new downtown arena promises the public a “ripple effect” for their investment of hundreds of millions of dollars, saying the stadium will “transform” the neighborhood with development and jobs.

The whole thing is pretty over the top. Jeramey Jannene over at Urban Milwaukee has evaluating the recently unveiled stadium design. He notes that, for some reason, all the glossy renderings don’t include the arena’s huge parking garage. And he says the design will have to change if the arena is going to meet some basic standards of walkability:

If the new arena is to have a “ripple effect” as yesterday’s press release again proclaimed, it’s going to want to follow basic tenets of good urban design. It needs to be not just the largest gathering space Downtown, but also an inviting piece of the urban fabric when it’s completely empty.

Think of the best streets to walk down in Milwaukee. N. Broadway in the Historic Third Ward. E. Brady St. on the Lower East Side. The S. Kinnickinnic Ave. around E. Lincoln Ave. in Bay View. The one overarching shared trait they have is they’re activated on the ground level. The most obvious way to achieve this is with retail stores, but a million other possibilities abound from public art and street lights to varying building materials.

The new Bucks arena has almost no activation on three sides. If a great, urban neighborhood is expected to emerge around the new arena, let’s not build a black hole in the middle of it.

Other cities have shown it’s possible to incorporate ground-floor retail into large sports venues. Failing that, Jannene says, if Milwaukee’s arena can just get some sort of interesting window display to face the sidewalk, that would be an improvement over blank walls and loading docks.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Seattle Transit Blog takes you through the epic political process that led to the city’s growing light rail network. Architect this City reports Medellín, Colombia, has was a global prize for sustainable cities thanks to its transportation improvements. And Green Caltrain says there’s a better way to resolve pedestrian conflicts at a busy rail crossing in Mountain View, California, than putting its main street in a trench.

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