By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Mar 22, 2006 at 5:13 AM

Milwaukee's harbor entrance will soon be the site of a public plaza with a bamboo grove and the winning design is the result of an international design competition hosted by the City of Milwaukee.

Erie Street Plaza will be built based on the winning proposal from Stoss Landscape Urbanism (Boston), Vetter Denk Architects and GAS engineering from Milwaukee. The plan was one of 37 entered into the competition by firms from around the globe. A jury of architects, landscape architects and artists solicited community input and selected the winner, which is a sustainable garden that aims to prevent storm water run-off. On Tues., March 21 both the financing and the project design were approved by the Milwaukee Common Council.

"The new energy and excitement about Milwaukee has captured the attention of the international design community, as the tremendous response to this competition shows," said Mayor Tom Barrett in a statement. "I am grateful to all of the firms that competed for the chance to create a unique Milwaukee landmark. Erie Street Plaza's sustainable garden will add to Milwaukee's 'cool' factor as it offers significant public access to our Riverwalk and Lakefront trail."

Construction is expected to begin this summer and the park, which will cost under $850,000 will be funded with a TIF district that is being used for street and Riverwalk improvements along the north bank of the Milwaukee River. The TIF has been approved by the Joint Review Board and the Redevelopment Authority, in addition to the full council.

The plaza, which will be planted with two cold-hardy bamboo varieties, will be part of the Riverwalk system and will have eight to 10 benches of varying design set amid the bamboo groves. Dramatic lighting will create a unique feel.

In an effort to prevent run-off, storm water from part of the site will be collected in concrete pits covered with steel grates. Heaters will create steam from the water which will be used to keep the bamboo warm, moist and evergreen in the cold months.

You can view the five finalists in the competition from April 24 through May 20 at the DAR Gallery at UWM's School of Architecture and Urban Planning. The plans will also be posted on the Department of City Development Web site,, on April 24.