Team behind International Award Winning “Brighten the Passage” Sets Sights on Building Downtown’s First Dog Park”

The International Downtown Association (IDA) recognized Milwaukee Downtown, Inc. and its partner, the Historic Third Ward BID #2, with the Downtown Achievement Award of Excellence for its resourceful approaches related to its “Brighten the Passage” project. A jury of peer professionals reviewed, deliberated and evaluated all entries in the 2021 Downtown Achievement Awards. The Award of Excellence acknowledges an excellent response to an urban place management challenge, demonstrating application of industry knowledge and exceeding the jury criteria.   

“Brighten the Passage” was among a pool of qualified entries in the category of Planning, Design and Infrastructure, which IDA identifies as one of the seven professional urban place management practice areas. This category called for unique organizational approaches and projects in the areas of downtown master planning, streetscape improvements, sustainable infrastructure and wayfinding.

In fall 2020, the four I-794 freeway support piers that frame Broadway were transformed with art installations that have created one of the most unique outdoor urban art collections in the region. Tia Richardson, The Couto Brothers, Josephine Rice and Dave Watkins brought their individual styles to life during the first phase of the improvement project.

In January 2021, the second phase of the “Brighten the Passage” project was completed with the installation of 75 programmable aesthetic lighting under I-794 at both Broadway and Water Street to create an enhanced sense of place and further fulfill project goals. The dynamic lighting array, which was designed by Ring & DuChateau, installed by Lemberg and programmed by Main Stage, can now be viewed nightly.

“‘Brighten the Passage’ is an implementation of the vision embodied in the City’s Downtown Area Plan, which was further developed by the neighborhood BIDs to bolster downtown’s daytime and nightlife economies,” said Matt Dorner, economic development director of Milwaukee Downtown. “Improving underutilized zones that discourage pedestrian activity is a goal advanced with this project. We want residents, workers and visitors alike to not only feel like they are in a unique and vibrant place, but we also want to create new and interesting attractions that draw more patrons to the area for our businesses.”

“Milwaukee Downtown and its partners have demonstrated skillful application of urban place management principles with its ‘Brighten the Passage’ initiative,” said David Downey, IDA President and CEO. “‘Brighten the Passage’ should serve as a framework to all member communities within IDA.”

Washington, DC-based IDA is the premier organization for urban place professionals who are shaping and activating dynamic city center districts. Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 is the urban place management organization representing the interests of downtown property owners in the City of Milwaukee. “Brighten the Passage” and the other award winners will be detailed on the IDA website during the week of October 18th, prior to the award celebration at the 2021 IDA National Conference in Tampa, FL. 

Milwaukee Downtown and the Historic Third Ward BID #2 continue to strengthen neighborhood connections under I-794. Beyond the “Brighten the Passage” project, other public spaces under the freeway are being reimagined. Pickleball courts recently opened just west of the Milwaukee Public Market at Riverwalk Commons, renovations to Pompeii Square that created a new gateway into downtown and the Historic Third Ward just wrapped up, and now the organizations are working on their most ambitious project to date – a fundraising campaign for downtown’s first public dog park under I-794 along the west side of the Milwaukee River. Details on the project and donation opportunities are available as

More information on the “Brighten the Passage” project is available at