Mayor approves construction of new Vel R. Phillips Plaza in downtown Milwaukee

NOW: Mayor approves construction of new Vel R. Phillips Plaza in downtown Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- In a little over a year, a large downtown parking lot off W. Wisconsin Avenue will be transformed into a 30,000-sq. ft. public plaza.

Milwaukee's mayor signed a resolution Monday to build a new plaza in downtown Milwaukee, dedicated to a woman who shattered glass ceilings in the city and the state.

The planned Vel R. Phillips Plaza will include green space, gathering space, and dining options.

"When people come to visit the city of Milwaukee, when they come to the convention center, they'll be reminded of one of our great leaders," said Alderwoman Milele Coggs.

Vel Phillips broke barriers as both the first African American and first woman elected to the Milwaukee Common Council.

She was also the first female judge in Milwaukee, and first Black judge in the state of Wisconsin, along with many other accolades.

"The plaza is not only beautiful, but it will also have some historical data about her," Coggs said.

Vel R. Phillips plaza will take the place of an existing city-owned parking lot on W. Wisconsin Ave., between Vel R. Phillips Ave. and N. 5th St, across from the Wisconsin Center.

"The parking lot currently is not the most sightly," Coggs said. "Given the fact that the center district is investing nearly half a billion dollars right across the street, it just makes sense that we'll have something beautiful across the street for those who come visit."

Milwaukee's Common Council approved the use of $15,750,000 to build the plaza, using funding from a tax incremental district.

"We have this tool to finance businesses and then use some of those monies to make public improvements," explained Mayor Cavalier Johnson.

Some of that money will also go towards public investments in the area, including updated street lighting, pedestrian safety and transportation infrastructure.

"It'll be a space where we'll have multiple modes of transportation converging so that folks can get from where they are to where they're going throughout downtown," Mayor Johnson said.

The city envisions the plaza as a space for farmers markets, food trucks and other events, while honoring a revolutionary part of Milwaukee history.

"I hope it serves as an inspiration to demonstrate what one person can do with their life if they truly choose to be of service," Coggs said.

Work on the plaza will begin in the next few months. The city hopes to have it completed by July 2024, before the Republican National Convention at the Wisconsin Center.

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