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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

January 2004 Issue

Regenerating the Landscape, Reconnecting the Community
A vision for the Menomonee River Valley.
By David Boyd


William Wenk, Wenk Associates Inc.

Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee. When we hear these names our minds are often filled with images of billowing smokestacks, busy rail yards, and lines of dungaree—clad workers-the "lunch bucket brigades"—filing into gray, grim factories. These cities are symbolic of the great industrial age that shaped this country and helped to define the United States as an economic superpower. However, in today's climate of global industrialization, these great cities and many others like them have largely been reduced to relics of "the rustbelt." We are left with the difficult chore of transforming the workforce, rebuilding our neighborhoods, and cleaning up the mess left by decades of environmentally irresponsible activities.

The Menomonee River Valley was once the heart of Milwaukee. Two and a half miles long and covering more than 750 acres, the valley runs parallel to and just south of Interstate 94. Since the construction of the interstate in the mid-1960s, visitors arriving at the western edge of downtown were greeted by the sight of Milwaukee County Stadium, home to baseball's 1957 world champion Milwaukee Braves (and later the Milwaukee Brewers), and the scent of some of the valley's more noxious industries. Today, County Stadium is gone, replaced by the ultramodern Miller Park. And the stench is gone, too, thanks to the recent closing of one particularly offensive factory. But these changes didn't occur overnight. In fact, the changes in this area of the city are the result of more than 20 years of public discourse about what to do with the valley.

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