ChallengeSituated on the banks of the Milwaukee River, surrounded by 1,200 acres of parks and green space among the hills of glacially formed Kettle Moraine, sits West Bend, Wisconsin. This growing community decided to revitalize its underutilized downtown riverfront, a 3,300 ft. stretch of property along the river. The goal was to attract more visitors, bolster local businesses, and create a seamless connection to the City’s extended riverwalk. This riverfront also forms part of the West Bend Milwaukee Riverfront Parkway, a multi-use trail running through the City. However, the project faced challenges, including extensive permitting, community buy-in, funding, the need to relocate complex utilities, limited space between the river and the downtown buildings, and deteriorating infrastructure.
This ambitious $10 million riverwalk project is part of the City’s broader initiative to revitalize the downtown area and plays a vital role in shaping the community’s future. Building upon an extensive community engagement process, which involved multiple meetings and input sessions with all stakeholders, SEH's team of engineers, architects, scientists, and planners successfully executed a comprehensive redesign. This plan encompassed a range of enhancements, such as retaining walls, pathways, gathering plazas, and seating walls. Additionally, the project featured aesthetically themed lighting and railing, improved connections to Main Street and the downtown business district, enhanced river access, an ADA-compliant fishing pier, kayak launches, and the refurbishment of the pedestrian bridge.
The underpass at Washington Street (STH 33) was a key component connecting the downtown area with additional development to the north. Since past attempts by the City to gain underpass approval were unsuccessful, SEH worked closely with the City and Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) to find a win-win solution.
After establishing the project vision, SEH created a visual flyby video illustrating how the redesign could appear. This video served multiple purposes, including soliciting private donor contributions, facilitating grant funding applications, and aiding in the permitting process. Offering this visual representation was instrumental in conveying the project's concept and played a pivotal role in its overall success.
To address aging infrastructure and enhance sustainability, the project involved the removal and replacement of deteriorating retaining walls with new, structurally sound walls that helped restore and stabilize the streambank. The project also incorporated pervious pavers, grass buffer strips, tree well structures, and other stormwater best management practices to reduce contamination. The design of new retaining walls, access points, and a fresh path involved extensive coordination with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), WisDOT, downtown business owners, and City staff.
The riverwalk's close proximity to utility facilities and large groupings of utilities in locations with limited horizontal clearance posed additional challenges, requiring careful utility relocation. The overall site grading, including retaining walls, offered solutions that addressed these proximity issues.
To bring this project to reality, SEH offered surveying, permitting, construction drawings, bid specifications, bid assistance, and construction cost estimates. Throughout the design and construction phases, SEH contributed to construction management by conducting inspections as needed, assisting in field adjustments necessitated by unforeseen subsurface conditions, such as shallow utilities and old building foundations, as well as reviewing project quantities and pay applications.
Now complete, the Riverwalk project has proven to be a transformative, positive addition to West Bend's landscape.
West Bend Riverwalk
West Bend, Wisconsin
City of West Bend
- Provided 3D modeling, artistic rendering, and video illustrating the project's design intent
- HEC-RAS modeling to demonstrate no increase in the 100-year water surface elevation
- Careful utility coordination to address facilities located in close proximity to the riverwalk
- Civil engineering
- Community development
- Construction services
- Environmental engineers and scientists
- Mechanical/electrical engineering
- Natural resource scientists
- Planning and landscape architecture
- Structural engineering
- Transportation planning
- Wastewater engineering
- Water resources engineering