Vel R Phillips Plaza

A contrasting built realm characterizes Milwaukee’s Westown neighborhood. Fine-scale historic buildings sit alongside large-scale civic buildings served by surface and structured parking. The large undifferentiated open spaces created by surface parking create scars that fracture the public realm. 

The new Vel R Phillips Plaza seeks to heal a significant urban scar that has existed since the mid-1980s. Working with HNTB and Saiki Design, TKWA co-authored a site master plan seeking to bring vitality back to a city block that was once home to hotels, bars, offices, and residences. The new plaza will serve as the front door to Milwaukee’s convention center and a catalyst for further development on the project site and surrounding neighborhood.

The Vel R Phillips transit plaza will also serve as a multi-modal intersect for the planned expansion of Milwaukee’s streetcar system and bus rapid transit (BRT) line currently in design. Connecting multiple transit systems at this strategic location will give both Milwaukee residents and city tourists a greatly expanded mobility choice.


Milwaukee, WI


In Progress

The plaza design features a grid of trees that create a unified, well-defined civic outdoor room. Sitting within the tree canopy, a proposed new bar/restaurant will anchor the space with daily visitors. The building window walls open across the entire facade, blurring the distinction between indoors and outdoors.

Pop-up vendors stalls, art installations, and story-telling features will further animate the plaza.