Parking lots south of Harley Davidson Inc.’s Juneau Avenue headquarters will become a public park, the first phase of a “repurposing” of the motorcycle-maker’s west side campus that CEO Jochen Zeitz announced in October.
At the time, Zeitz reiterated the company’s commitment to the west side neighborhood the company has called home for 120 years even as he announced that office workers, who have largely been working remotely since the start of the coronovirus panedmeic, would not be returning to the offices.
The plan, announced Wednesday, calls for two large parking lots between West 35th and West 37th streets to be developed as “a civic and soulful green gathering space that can be used by everyone, including employees and the local community.”
The centerpiece of the 5.8-acre park will be “The Hub”, a sunken multi-use events space with tiered seating that will be surrounded by native plants and trees.
“We want Harley-Davidson’s presence in Milwaukee to be more relevant than ever before, for our community, employees and our customers,” Zeitz said in a statement. “It’s important to us to protect and enhance this part of our heritage in a way that is aligned to our strategy, ensuring that it will be relevant to generations to come.”
The company did not provide information about its plans for the 500,000-square-foot headquarters building at 3700 W. Juneau Ave.
In advance of the announcement, the company transferred ownership of the headquarters building, the parking lots and a strip mall east of the headquarters to the Harley-Davidson Foundation, it’s charitable and civic-engagement arm. The foundation will fund initial work; appeals for sponsorships and donations for additional funding are expected to begin soon, the company said.
“The Harley-Davidson Foundation is doubling down on our focus and investments to support the neighborhood to make it a place all can be proud to live, work and visit. It is our hope that this park will become the heart of the community and catalyst for further revitalization efforts,” said Julie Anding, president of the Harley-Davidson Foundation.
From factory land to a public park
Harley-Davidson contacted with Heatherwick Studio of London, England, an international design firm, to develop the park plan. Heatherwick’s projects include Little Island, a green space above New York’s Hudson River; Google’s campus in Bay View, California; Coal Drops Yard in London; and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town.
The Hub’s circular layout will be defined by a combination of motorcycle driveways and turning circles, parking bays, sidewalks, plants and seats, and 360-degree viewpoints. It will be constructed with locally sourced brick, natural timber and weathered steel.
It will provide views of the company’s headquarters to the north, and be surrounded by a park sown with native plants and trees, some of which are sacred to the Forest County Potawatomi. There are also plans for a market street, a contemplative garden, and a nature playground.
“We want to make an exciting community space where people can come together with friends and family and experience the wildness of nature alongside spaces for food, performance and play,” said Thomas Heatherwick, founder and director of Heatherwick Studios. “The ambition is to highlight and celebrate renewed life in the Near West Side of this very special city.”
Heatherwick will collaborate with local firms including HGA Architects and Engineers and Greenfire Management Services of Milwaukee, said Harley-Davidson.
The foundation worked with stakeholders, including community members, to help develop the design.
Construction of the park is expected to start in spring; it will be open for public use in 2024.
Zeitz said kicking off park construction as the company prepares to mark its 120th year in business underscores the company’s commitment to Milwaukee.
“We are very proud by the work of the Harley-Davidson Foundation in spearheading this project, which builds on the $30 million donated by the Motor Company to the foundation since 2020,” he said.
Other near west side developments near the Harley-Davidson campus include Potawatomi Business Development Corp.’s conversion of Concordia University’s former campus into Wgema Campus, which includes a data center, offices for Potawatomi tribal government and other new uses, as well as the proposed Brewers Lofts apartments, 3808 W. Wisconsin Ave.