By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 03, 2021 at 5:27 PM

The Third Ward Business Improvement District #2 is teaming with Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 to create Downtown’s first covered open-air dog run just across the river from Riverwalk Commons.

The project is a finalist in a grant competition and your vote can help fund it. See the details below.


The 12,000-square-foot park – about a third of an acre – will be located between Plankinton Avenue and the Milwaukee River, from Clybourn Street south to a city alley that may be difficult to spot these days.

As part of the project, the City of Milwaukee has agreed to extend the RiverWalk to that block says Paul Schwartz, executive director of the Business Improvement District #2 and Milwaukee Public Market.

"If you look at the greater Downtown area, the closest dog run I think is in Bay View," says Schwartz. "You have a high density of dog owners in the Downtown community, and there's not a lot of good places to walk."


The project will cost an estimated $750,000 and the partners are beginning a fundraising effort now. They hope to break ground on the dog run in spring of 2022.

A website that will accept donations is expected to launch soon.

The dog run is a finalist in the PetSafe “Bark for your Park” grant competition, which announced 30 finalists on Tuesday morning.

“We’re thrilled to see this very worthy project getting the attention it deserves,” says Matt Dorner, economic development director of Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21.

“The Downtown Dog Park addresses an area where Milwaukee is outperformed by many of its peers. This much-needed community amenity will enhance downtown’s quality of life, as well as beautify one of downtown’s busiest gateways. I encourage the community to log on and vote.”

You can vote daily through Aug. 31 and the five projects that receive the most votes will get a $25,000 grant.

Vote for the project here.

“As our organizations look at ways in which to increase public space amenities and enhance the quality of life in the greater Downtown and Third Ward neighborhoods, we feel the Downtown Dog Park will be another key development in achieving those goals,” says Schwartz.

“The PetSafe grant will get us closer to making that vision a reality and we look forward to showcasing the outpouring of support that we’ve come to expect from the greater Milwaukee community throughout the voting process.”

Renderings of the site – prepared by Graef, which has its offices Downtown – show the grassy dog run behind a black iron fence, with two separate areas – one about three times the size of the other.

There will be synthetic turf with an irrigation system for cleaning, agility stations, water stations and decorative fencing.

The freeway’s two elevated roadways cover most, though not all, of the space. The roadway supports are painted with murals and areas around the dog run are landscaped.

If the city would consider vacating the alley and adding that square footage to the dog run, perhaps other amenities could be added, like a playground for children or an area for popup events like a beer garden and performances.

In the renderings, the alley appears to be used as parking for the dog run.

The creation of the Milwaukee Public Market, operated by the Third Ward Business Improvement District #2, in 2005 launched a new approach to the long-moribund land languishing in the shadow of the I-794 spur from the Marquette Interchange to the lakefront.

More than just bringing food and wine and community to land adjacent to and under the freeway, it has also brought murals along Broadway, as part of the Brighten the Passage effort – in partnership with Milwaukee Downtown – and the Riverwalk Commons pocket park along the river.

"The land under this freeway offers a unique opportunity," says Schwartz. "Why just have them be only categorized as parking lots? Why not look at them as public amenities and infrastructure amenities?"

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.