Milwaukee-rooted motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson Inc. plans to transform a central element of its Juneau Avenue headquarters campus into a public park with an aim of benefitting its employees and the neighboring community, in addition to contributing to efforts to attract people to Milwaukee’s Near West Side.
Internationally acclaimed designers Heatherwick Studio of London have been commissioned to conceive an original design that will transform the concrete site into a civic and green gathering space.
“Milwaukee is the place we have proudly called home for 120 years. We want Harley-Davidson’s presence in Milwaukee to be more relevant than ever before, for our community, employees and our customers,” Harley-Davidson Chairman, President and CEO Jochen Zeitz said. “It’s important to us to protect and enhance this part of our heritage in a way that is aligned to our strategy, ensuring that it will be relevant to generations to come.”
Kicking off the project during Harley-Davidson’s 120th year in business underscores the importance of the project and the commitment that the company is making to Milwaukee,” Zeitz said.
The initial development will be overseen and funded by the Harley-Davidson Foundation, with longer-term sponsorship and donor opportunities to further enhance the project being made available in the future.
Over the past 18 months, the Harley-Davidson Foundation brought together a broad set of stakeholders – including members of the community – to expand a shared, long-term vision for the Near West Side and set tangible priorities to accelerate progress for its neighborhood, according to the company.
Added green space was among the key community needs identified. To make that happen, Harley-Davidson has gifted the land identified for the project directly to the foundation. In developing the project, input from multiple stakeholders served as the basis for Heatherwick Studio’s unique community park design at the location where the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle was built in 1903.
Heatherwick’s internationally acclaimed projects include Little Island, a green space that sits above the Hudson River in New York City.
At the heart of the Harley-Davidson park project is The Hub, a sunken multi-use events space with tiered seating set among lush plants and trees. Its circular layout is defined by a combination of motorcycle driveways and turning circles, parking bays, sidewalks, plants and seats, as well as 360-degree viewpoints. The Hub will be built with 10 types of locally sourced brick, natural wany-edge timber and weathered steel.
In one direction, the Hub will provide views of the brick buildings of the original home of Harley-Davidson. In the other, visitors will see a park sown with 120 native plant species, including 20 species of trees and 100 species of perennials, some of which are sacred to the Forest County Potawatomi. There are also plans for a market street, contemplative garden and nature playground.
“Our goal is to turn this historic factory land into a new public park for the people of Milwaukee,” Heatherwick founder and director Thomas Heatherwick said. “We want to make an exciting community space where people can come together with friends and family and experience the wildness of nature alongside spaces for food, performance and play. The ambition is to highlight and celebrate renewed life in the Near West Side of this very special city.”
Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and his family recently moved to the Near West Side, purchasing a house in the historic Concordia Neighborhood, just a few blocks from the Harley-Davidson property. Neighbors and community leaders hailed Johnson’s decision as part of the positive direction of the Near West Side.
Heatherwick will collaborate on the project with local firms, HGA, a Milwaukee architectural firm, and Greenfire Management Services, a Near West Side business and diverse supplier.
“This gift to the foundation is the most recent demonstration of the company’s commitment to its enduring, active community presence and inclusive stakeholder management approach to business that strives to positively impact people, planet and profit”, said Julie Anding, vice president of inclusive stakeholder management at Harley-Davidson and president of the Harley-Davidson Foundation. “The Harley-Davidson Foundation is doubling down on our focus and investments to support the neighborhood to make it a place all can be proud to live, work and visit. It is our hope that this park will become the heart of the community and catalyst for further revitalization efforts.”
The community park development is set to break ground this spring with the park available for use by summer 2024.