In January 2023, Harley-Davidson constituents announced a plan to transform the Juneau Avenue campus headquarters to benefit the community and attract visitors to Milwaukee’s Near West Side. In a brief Q&A, April Gianeselli, vice president of the Harley-Davidson Foundation, explains Harley-Davidson’s exciting plan for community development and how the 2021 AI Summit assisted in its creation.
What is this project?
The initial development will be overseen and funded by the Harley-Davidson Foundation. Overseeing the overall creative delivery of the project, internationally acclaimed designers, Heatherwick Studio, were commissioned to conceive an original design that will transform the 4-acre parking lot just south of the 3700 W. Juneau Ave. building into a space that can be used by everyone who lives in and visits Milwaukee’s Near West Side. At the heart of the park is “The Hub,” a sunken multi-use events space 83 meters (approximately 272 feet) wide with tiered seating, set among lush plants and trees. The design promotes the idea of togetherness for the community, riders and employees alike. The Hub will be built with 10 types of locally sourced brick, natural waney-edge timber and weathered steel with a beautifully warm patina. We are also working with our partners to ensure that sustainability, resiliency and ecology are embedded into the design of the park. We are incorporating the Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES), a complement to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED green building rating system, into the design and operation of the park. If successful, this park will become the first to receive SITES certification in the state of Wisconsin.
How did this project evolve from the 2021 AI Summit?
In 2021, the Harley-Davidson Foundation with Near West Side Partners hosted an Appreciative Inquiry Summit which brought together over 200 NWS stakeholders, including residents, youth and local businesses to discuss their hopes and dreams for the NWS. Attendees shared their desires for how we could collectively support healthy and happy people, empower thriving and united communities and facilitate vibrant and equitable economies. Among the key community needs identified was green space that supports health and wellbeing, an inclusive public gathering area, arts and culture integration and a place for youth to thrive.
What is the importance of gatherings like the AI Summit for community partnerships?
The AI Summit is a strengths-based, task-focused design-and-build process where everyone is engaged as co-designers. Gatherings like the AI Summit are critical for strong community partnerships as they allow everyone to have a seat at the table and let their voices be heard. Collaborative partnerships, inclusive of individuals, organizations and business are critical to support collective change.
What is your hope for this project?
Our ambition is for this park to be an inclusive and vibrant community hub that has equitably transformed the neighborhood through sustainable practices and serves as a recreational, civic and cultural destination welcoming all who visit and call the NWS home.
Our hope for this park is to:
- Be a place where all feel welcome and a part of its shared success.
- Be a safe and secure environment for all to gather and enjoy the outdoors.
- Offer high-quality equitable experiences and programming for our visitors — inclusive free programming to enhance and meet the community’s desired resource needs.
- Be a place that cultivates partnership and collaboration.
- A place that is kept clean, well maintained and uses sustainable practices to preserve the environment.
Why is this project important to Harley-Davidson, the Near West Side and Near West Side Partners?
As part of Harley-Davidson’s Inclusive Stakeholder Management approach to business, we strive to have a positive impact on our communities. That is why the Harley-Davidson Foundation is doubling down on our commitment to Milwaukee’s Near West Side community with additional focus and investment in the neighborhood we have called home for 120 years.