Reimagine Red Arrow Park

Creating a Welcoming Heart of the City

Innovative Public-Private Partnership Fosters Civic Life in City Hall's Backyard

Reimagine Red Arrow Park is a multi-year, public-private partnership to foster programming and civic life in the heart of the community, 365 days a year. 

While the park is active in the winter with Slice of Ice, it remains an underutilized community asset for most of the year. In addition, historic events in the park have influenced the community's perception as an uninviting space. To help document the park's challenges and opportunities, local architecture firm TKWA conducted a placemaking analysis with the participation of park stakeholders in 2021. 

In addition, the partnership brought short-term tactical improvements to the park, including adding moveable bistro tables and chairs, public art, events and programming. Immediate goals include activating the ice rink as an all-season asset, enhancing holiday decor, and recruiting food trucks back to the park on weekdays. Reimagine Red Arrow Park is made possible thanks to the support of Milwaukee County Parks, the City of Milwaukee, MGIC, Herzfeld Foundation, and Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21.

Art in the Park

Live Painting, Chalk Murals, and Banners Brighten the Park 

As part of a multi-phased approach, "Art in the Park" initiated the first series of changes to enliven the park. The program commissioned over a dozen local artists for live canvas painting and chalk murals in Red Arrow Park to add an element of surprise and delight. In addition, new, colorful banners by local artist Emma Daisy Gertel were installed on the park's lamp posts and around the ice rink. The design celebrates the park's potential to be a four-season public space by depicting a variety of activities that can take place year-round.

During the winter, ice sculptures complemented the ice rink experience. In 2023, Sculpture Milwaukee installed "Mobile Garden," by Lois Weinberger (1994/2022) on the park's upper terrace. 

New Park Amenities and Programming

New Reasons to Socialize in the Park 

In 2021, the partnership brought downtown's first moveable bistro tables and chairs into the park, providing flexibility, comfort, and style. The furniture's dark ivy green color sought to soften the park's hardscape and complement Starbucks. In addition, Milwaukee Downtown's Public Service Ambassadors assist with maintaining the tables by cleaning twice a day. Bright orange and yellow umbrellas will add a welcomed pop of color to the space this summer. 

Starting in 2022, Milwaukee Downtown coordinated a series of new family-friendly events, including Ice Skating with Local Olympians, Downtown Ice CAPEade, Big Truck DayHeart(beats) of the City, a summer food truck and concert series, Morning Zen & Blend, and the Jack-O-Lantern Jubilee. New in 2023, we partnered with Roll Train, Milwaukee Recreation, and Milwaukee County Parks to host Summer Spinz, a free roller skating event on the third Friday in June, July, and August. All of the events became instant crowd-favorites, with plans for the events to become annual celebrations.  

Placemaking Analysis

To help document the park's challenges and opportunities, local architecture firm TKWA developed a placemaking analysis of the park. Nearly a dozen stakeholders from adjacent properties and businesses participated in a feelings map. 

Conversations continue with community members, including a design charrette with members from the Community Council for the Connecting MKE - Downtown Plan 2040. 

Read the Report