From Spur to Spectacular.
Milwaukee is one of very few cities in the country to demolish a freeway to connect neighborhoods and open valuable land for development. The land was once the Park East Freeway, a mile-long spur that was built as part of a larger plan to encircle the downtown business district with expressways.
The freeway project, however, was never completed due in part to opposition from neighborhood groups and businesses.
Though the land east of the spur had been cleared for the right-of-way needed to continue the Park East Freeway, it remained undeveloped until the state removed its designation as a transportation corridor. This led to the creation of the East Pointe Neighborhood, a community of shops, townhouses, condominiums, and rental properties, part of a revival of residential construction in downtown Milwaukee.
The success of the East Pointe Neighborhood and the resurgence of downtown Milwaukee convinced officials the time was right to demolish downtown freeways and replace them with mixed-used neighborhoods. In 1999 the removal of the spur was approved by the State of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee. Three years later, utilizing Federal ISTEA money and local Tax Increment Financing, removal of the Park East Freeway began.
The elevated freeway spur was replaced with an at-grade, six-lane boulevard – McKinley Boulevard — that is fully connected with the existing and newly re-created street grid. New block configurations opened up 24 acres of downtown property for redevelopment.