The City of Milwaukee Adopts New Green Infrastructure Plan 

portrait of mayor tom barrett
Dealing with climate change means recognizing and addressing its causes while also preparing for its effects.  In March, I outlined  our strategy for reducing fossil fuels. We remain committed to fuel 25 percent of our energy needs with renewable energy by the year 2025.
Science, and our own experience, tells us we need to begin adapting to climate change.  Wisconsin can expect to see an increased risk of storms in years to come.  This risk coupled with the large amount of pavement and other hard surfaces in the urban environment increases the risk of flooding. This month, I am pleased to announce that the City of Milwaukee now has an official  Green Infrastructure Plan Green infrastructure manages stormwater where it falls by incorporating more green space into the urban environment. Additions such as green roofs, bioswales and rain gardens help our city effectively manage stormwater.
By 2030, Milwaukee will add approximately 36 million gallons of stormwater storage by implementing green infrastructure. This is the equivalent of adding 143 acres of green space throughout the City. Green infrastructure will be designed, installed and maintained by an inclusive workforce that is representative of the City's diversity. 

Green infrastructure is also a key component of our  Water Centric City initiative , which showcases Milwaukee's leadership in managing our water resources in a sustainable and resilient way. The Green Infrastructure Plan was developed by the City of Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office and Department of Public Works with support of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Fund for Lake Michigan, Brico Fund and broad input from many academic, community, and business stakeholders.  
Green Infrastructure Plan Highlights
Green Schools Partnership 
I'm excited to announce that the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District have formed a new partnership to prioritize green schoolyard projects.  It's unfair that so many of our children are confined to recess on blacktop or pavement. Adding functional green space, gardens and outdoor classrooms improves both the natural and educational environment for our young people. The City of Milwaukee is supporting these projects by pledging $600,000 a year to Milwaukee Public Schools from our allocation of MMSD's Green Solutions funding. This allocation also supports MPS' newly created Sustainability Specialist position. 
The Green Schools Consortium of Milwaukee is preparing MPS schools for this new green infrastructure.  2019 funding is supporting Green Schools Consortium projects at Starms Early Childhood Center, Burdick Elementary School, Hawley Environmental School and Longfellow School. Green infrastructure is also being funded at Custer Playfield, Southgate Playfield, and Columbia Playfield among other locations. 
Groundbreaking of a green schools project at H.W. Longfellow School.
Green Streets
Since 2008, the City of Milwaukee has been periodically adding green infrastructure such as bioswales and permeable pavement to our roads and alleys during reconstruction projects. In 2013, we developed a "Green Streets Stormwater Management Plan" so that all street reconstruction projects are evaluated for green infrastructure opportunities. This year, you'll see green infrastructure projects on W. Dakota Street, W. Nash Street, W. Good Hope Road, W. Keefe Avenue Parkway, W. Bradley Avenue, and W. Brown Deer Road. Commissioner Jeff Polenske and the staff at our Department of Public Works have done a great job of rethinking how we use our streets to reduce flood risk and improve water quality.
Green Libraries 
In 2015, we added green infrastructure to the parking lot at Tippecanoe Library.  There are plans to add green infrastructure to Center Street, Washington Park, Atkinson, Bay View and Zablocki Libraries, as well as the City-owned parking lot next to Mitchell Street Library. Three Milwaukee Public Library (MPL) locations have also installed over 200 kw of solar energy this summer. These projects leverage the unique role MPL holds as a community engagement and educational institution, and a trusted source of informing and serving Milwaukee's residents. I appreciate City Librarian Paula Kiely and the MPL Board for their collaboration on environmental sustainability. 
Green Development 
City Hall Complex Green Roof
In late 2018, we revised a city ordinance to require that all large developments and redevelopments of an acre or more capture at least the first 1/2 inch of rainfall using green infrastructure.  The stormwater management code now explicitly prioritizes green infrastructure because of its many environmental benefits and as a climate adaption strategy.  Green roofs, like the one on the City Hall Complex and Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons are one strategy that can be used to satisfy the code. "On the ground" strategies such as bioswales, rain gardens, and permeable pavers are other options.    
Due in part to Milwaukee's leadership on green infrastructure, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District also recently passed new rules requiring green infrastructure throughout the region when property owners add more than 5,000 square feet of pavement or other impervious surfaces. Within the next 9 months the City will update its code accordingly. 
Green Lots  
SDC parking lot transformation  on 17th and North Avenue
You might recall the popular Joni Mitchell song that says, "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot."  While parking is important for commerce, too much pavement contributes to flooding risk, reduced air quality, the "urban heat island" effect and unattractive commercial streets. Our Green Infrastructure Plan prioritizes opportunities to remove excess amounts of pavement and replace it with trees, shrubs and green infrastructure. The City's Department of City Development recently updated its parking lot landscaping code. We're providing grants of up to $8,000 to encourage property owners in the Neighborhood Strategic Planning Area to add landscaping. This landscaping strategy also potentially creates new markets to use locally produced compost. Starting in 2020, additional funds will be available to commercial parking lot owners for larger-scale green infrastructure. Visit for more information.  
Green Jobs
We are working hard to build an inclusive workforce to design, install and maintain these new investments in green   infrastructure.  Over the past year, we've been proud to partner with   Walnut Way's Blue Skies Landscaping and Groundwork Milwaukee for many projects.  You can see the improvements for yourself by taking a self-guided EcoTour of Lindsay Heights
The landscape of Milwaukee's downtown space and neighborhoods is changing fast.  With our green infrastructure plan, we can continue on our journey to become a world-class eco-city on America's Fresh Coast. 
Mayor Tom Barrett
City of Milwaukee

Last September, I announced the Green Infrastructure Plan at Coakley Brothers new green parking lot, with Erick Shambarger of the Environmental Collaboration Office, Travis Luzney of Milwaukee Public Schools, Kevin Shafer of MMSD, and Coakley Brothers President Peggy Coakley.
Fondy Park  

The Fondy Farmers Market has long provided fresh and healthy food options to Lindsay Heights residents.  The City wanted to help make the market a more attractive destination while adding a touch of nature to the neighborhood.  Through our HOME GR/OWN program and the help of many community partners, we transformed a blighted vacant lot into Fondy Park . This eco-park includes enough green infrastructure to manage over 76,000 gallons of rainwater from both the rooftops of the farmers market and the street. Responding to the requests of neighborhood residents, the park includes a stage, energy efficient lighting, locally crafted tables, free public Wi-Fi and solar panels. Fondy Park is a symbol of community pride because so many residents were involved in the concept and construction of the park, including Walnut Way's Blue Skies Landscaping and Reflo.  We are grateful to our many park sponsors: MMSD, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Zilber Family Foundation, the Institute for  Sustainable  Communities and David J. Frank Landscaping. Fondy Park is just one green infrastructure destination in Lindsay Heights as part our new Eco Tour .   Join me for a Walk 100 of the Eco Tour on July 12!