By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 21, 2023 at 5:01 PM

The City of Milwaukee announced Tuesday that it has launched a new “interim plaza program” that allows for the repurposing of “space that might otherwise be underutilized or unnecessary for automobile traffic, or unsafe for people walking.”

Based on recommendations made in the March 22 Gathering Places Feasibility Study report – which focused on ways the city could work with partners and residents to, "grow Milwaukee’s network of gathering places and proposes specific strategies of how new gathering places can be used to advance city goals for increased safety, health, economic opportunity and racial equity” – the new initiative will allow for the transformation of rights of way with “low-cost materials” that can, presumably, be easily removed.

The study grew out of Mayor Cavalier Johnson's S.T.A.N.D. for Safer Streets Plan effort to try and rein in Milwaukee's reckless driving problem.

"Converting excess portions of public streets into gathering spaces is one
component of this plan to create safe spaces for pedestrians, spur economic development and bring neighbors together," the study report noted.

Annual permits for the interim spaces will be granted by the Department of Public Works, which has a related grant program that can, in three cases, help cover up to $30,000 of the plaza installation costs.

The application process opened Tuesday and applications for plazas, which must be installed by July 15, are due May 12. Complete details and applications can be found at

“Growing our network of gathering places is a goal of my administration,” said Johnson in Tuesday's announcement. “We look forward to seeing what creative activation the community can offer in these spaces as we partner to make Milwaukee a more vibrant, attractive city.”

Applications can be filed by, “Anyone who is or represents an adjacent property owner(s), a nearby business or neighborhood improvement district, or a nearby city-recognized non-profit community-based organization can apply for an interim plaza permit.”

The DPW must pre-approve sites to be sure the proposed location is suitable for a plaza and that there is support from neighbors and elected officials.

The interim plazas are public spaces, but applicants must agree to maintain and clean the interim plazas during their permitted span, which runs April 1-March 31.

You can read the Gathering Places Feasability Study report here.

“The interim plaza program builds on a legacy of DPW programs such as Active Streets for Business, special events permitting, and Paint the Pavement which view streets as places for people.” Commissioner of Public Works Jerrel Kruschke said.

The Active Streets for Business program is different. Details on that program can be found here.

Another public plaza plan to emerge from recent discussions about creating gathering spaces is this one on the East Side.

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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.