Honor Award Winner
Project Name: Lake Vista Park
Location: Oak Creek, Wisconsin
Design Team: SmithGroup & Rinka+
Oak Creek’s Lake Vista Park is part of a comprehensive vision designed to transform approximately 250 acres of former industrial brownfields along the shores of Lake Michigan into a vibrant system of community open space, habitat, new homes, and businesses. The park represents the first phase of public improvements critical to changing the perception of this prominent, neglected site, to spur future reinvestment from the private sector in the local economy.
Although Oak Creek is located on the bluffs along Lake Michigan, the public’s connection to the lake remained out of reach. Industrial activity occupied the lakefront for over 100 years, leaving behind contamination with arsenic and other pollutants.
Following factory closures in the 1970-1980s, the site sat vacant for decades until the City partnered with the former industrial owners and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to remediate the property. In 2009, the City began a series of planning exercises to imagine what the future of the land could be. The Lakefront Redevelopment Action Plan completed in 2011 provided a framework for mixed-use redevelopment, including new businesses, light industrial uses, and multi-family residential units. This was also done on the most contaminated portions of the site where redevelopment would be most difficult given underlying subsurface concerns. However, the plan reserved the lakefront portion of the site for a large community park, ensuring public access to the water and providing critical wildlife habitat in the migratory flyway.
In 2014, through a combination of acquisitions and donations following environmental remediation, the City gained control of a majority of the lakefront portions of the Lake Vista site including the EPEC and DuPont properties. Public investment of approximately $7M began immediately, and Lake Vista Park officially opened to the public in August 2018. What was once a major source of pollution to Lake Michigan and the surrounding upland area is now transitioning into a model of green redevelopment and an incredible asset to the social and ecological networks within the Milwaukee region.