Challenge Statement - Brighten the Passage Historic Third Ward Association Milwaukee Downtown Responsible Hospitality Institute City of Milwaukee

Brighten the Passage

Design Competition




Winners have been selected and announced!

Click here to view the winning entries.

The Brighten the Passage judging team met to make a final evaluation of the submissions and rank the first, second and third place winners on Wednesday, May 9.


There were a total of seven submissions with of a wide range of approaches, from specific installations to enhance the sidewalk areas passing under I-794, to more comprehensive approaches to both land uses and design elements. The differing submissions opened the team’s eyes to some new concepts and helped to refine the priorities for the area. 


The issues of agreement amongst the judges became more evident as the conversation and dialogue moved along. Thinking through plusses and minuses of each not only helped to solve the final rankings, but help set the stage for approaches to further design development and implementation. The simplicity of the elements and the adaptability of the design while preserving the submitters’ concepts were important to determining the highest ranked submission. Designs which focused on the pedestrian level experience were high priorities. Other elements in the highest ranked submissions included managing storm water and drainage, incorporating lighted bollards and benches, and the enhancement of pedestrian crossings. 


There was concern raised on whether designs would work with likely potential changes to the actual bridge deck design during DOT reconstruction and concerns on how future under-deck bridge inspection would be accomplished. Some proposed structures, while dramatic, did raise concerns regarding engineering and construction costs, maintenance, flammability, weather, etc.  Elements that “walled off” adjacent parcels and parking lot raised safety concerns. 


In the end, the winning submission focused primarily on the principal goal of brightening the passage, while the runners-up focused more on design and programming ideas.


The Judging Team

Robert Bauman - Alderman 4th District

Ghassan Korban - DPW Commissioner

Carolynn Gellings - PE, Southeast Freeways Group, Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Whitney Gould - Milwaukee City Plan Commissioner and former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel architecture critic

Greg Uhen - CEO / Design Principal, EU Architects and BID No. 2 and Historic Third Ward Association board member


Project Goals

  • Improve the pedestrian experience underneath Interstate 794
  • Shorten the perceived distance between the two neighborhoods
  • Serve as a gateway from one neighborhood to the other
  • Add interest to the public realm that invites people to the space
  • Create an environment that feels safe and comfortable both night and day
  • Develop a concept which is practical and reasonable to implement
  • Stand out as a national example to address this common urban problem



Downtown Milwaukee’s Nightlife Strategy Initiative


Download resources to help create submission

Complete Design Competition Guidelines and Information

Graphic Diagram of Water St and Broadway Area

Engineering Plat Maps

Site Plan of Milwaukee Public Market

Survey (Partial) of Parcel East of Water Street

794 Engineering As-Built Drawing - without cross over

Photos of competition area - link to Flickr (five sets of photos)



To send questions, click here.  Answers to submitted questions will be posted here soon.




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