“Our mayor likes to say that his favorite bird is the crane,” said Laura Lutter Cole, convention sales manager at VISIT Milwaukee. At last count, Milwaukee has more than $5 billion in new construction projects in the works, much of them tied to attractions and hospitality. One of the largest
Laura Lutter Cole
projects opened last August, the $524-million Fiserv Forum, home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. The 714,000-square-foot arena features an outdoor plaza space for gatherings, concert capacity for about 18,000 spectators, along with 34 suites and three clubs — all just a few blocks from the Wisconsin Center convention complex.
Another undertaking, the Lakefront Gateway Project, is revamping the area between the lakefront and downtown to add more green space and improve connectivity and walkability. Several new hotel properties and hotel renovation projects have already debuted, including The Westin Milwaukee, and more are in the works for downtown. A new streetcar system, known as “The Hop,” is set to expand later this year. All of this shiny new development comes at a perfect time — in 2020, the city will host the Democratic National Convention.
Sitting directly on Lake Michigan, with access to both the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds, Milwaukee’s identity is deeply intertwined with the bodies of water that surround it. Its location on the shores of the Great Lakes — the greatest single source of fresh water on the planet — has helped spur more than 200 water-technology businesses in the region, according to The Water Council, which is also based in the city. Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood is home to the Milwaukee Water Technology District, and the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences (SFS), the first graduate school solely focused on the study of fresh water.
“There’s the East Coast, the West Coast, and Milwaukee is becoming known as America’s fresh coast,” Cole said. Take a stroll down to the shores of Lake Michigan and you’ll spot people surfing, sailing, and swimming. You’ll also see some of the city’s most eye-catching attractions, like the piercing, swooping wingspan of the Milwaukee Art Museum.
From good water comes great beer. “Milwaukee is the city that beer built,” according to VISIT Milwaukee. The number of microbreweries, taprooms, tours, and beer-related events in the city has ballooned in recent years. Here, groups can tour the Miller Caves where Frederick Miller chilled his beer, raise a toast in a German-style bierhaus, or zip around between breweries on a guided bus tour. At Discovery World, the city’s lakefront science and technology center, groups can learn how to brew and bottle their own beer.
The Pabst Brewing Company, established in 1844 in Milwaukee and at one point the country’s largest brewery, is now Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, offering tours and event spaces. “We were part of the Rust Belt — that’s our working-class heritage,” Cole said. “When you look at these buildings built in the late 1800s, you can see that now, over 100 years later, we’re celebrating it again, but with a new Milwaukee.”
The Brewhouse Inn & Suites is one of a handful of historic Pabst Brewing Company buildings in Milwaukee now used in new ventures. (Visit Milwaukee)