O’Donnell Park Spotlight

The NEWaukee Spotlight is a candid conversation about community issues and resources. We invite community members to participate in the discussion by offering their opinions on how to make a brighter future for our city.

O’Donnell Park Spotlight

In 2014, Northwestern Mutual offered to purchase O’Donnell Park from Milwaukee County and to make more than $6.5 million in immediate upgrades to the parking structure as well as enhance the high-quality open space for the entire community to use and enjoy. NEWaukee partnered with Northwestern Mutual to explore how to improve the public use of the open space above the parking structure.  As community members, we have a unique opportunity to shape how this blank canvas will look and be used in the future.

In 5 weeks, we received 256 different ridiculously awesome ideas about how to improve O’Donnell Park for the whole community to enjoy. Here’s what we heard from you:

NM Spotlight Results



Interested in seeing some of the ideas in more detail? Click here!


Take a look at O’Donnell Park today!


Milwaukee County Park System Our park system has long been a source of pride for the communities of Milwaukee County in southeastern Wisconsin. With over 140 parks and parkways totaling nearly 15,000 acres, we offer a source of recreational enjoyment for citizens and visitors alike.Besides the tax levy, park user fees support our programs. Additional financial assistance comes from federal and state grants, non-profit partners and corporate sponsors.Our park system began with the creation of The Milwaukee County Park Commission on August 20, 1907. Although parks had already been established within the limits of the City of Milwaukee by the City Park Commission, the visionary new County Park Commission had a much broader goal for the park system. Early Commissioners conceived of a park system that would form a “green belt” or series of scenic drives and parks encircling the county. Parks were located in outlying areas to allow for population expansion. Commissioners selected land not only for its natural beauty and interest, but also for its fitness for various forms of active and passive recreation. More on Milwaukee County History and the History of the Parks. O’Donnell Park O'Donnell Park MapLocated at 910 E. Michigan Avenue, O’Donnell Park sits atop a covered public parking structure near the lakefront just off of I-794. Offering daily, monthly and annual parking permits, the structure and park are a short walk from Downtown, Veterans Park, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Summerfest Grounds.The park is also readily accessible along Wisconsin Avenue and spans several blocks with green space, walkways and two pavilions. Walking paths connect the downtown main street to the Milwaukee Art Museum. More on O’Donnell Park History and Services.
Media Coverage

Other Parks and Cities

There are examples of privately owned public space here in Milwaukee and in other parts of the country that have been very successful. We invite you to explore these examples here. Local References Denim Park (Urban Milwaukee) Haymarket Square (Business Journal) Pocket Park on Vacant Land (Journal Sentinel) Private Operators in Public Parks (YouTube) National References A New Opportunity for City Parks As Private Donors Eye Public Space (Next City) Public-private partnerships in space projects : an analysis of stakeholder dynamics (DSpace@MIT) Parks and Re-creation: How private citizens saved New York’s public spaces (City Journal) Bryant Park, NY: Publicly Owned, Privately Managed, and Financially Self-Supporting (Project for Public Spaces) Public-Private Partnership Increases and Diversifies Use (Project for Public Spaces) Partnerships for Parks (Wallace Foundation) Secrets of San Francisco: Where to find our city’s POPOS — privately owned public open spaces (SPUR) Public-Private Partnerships for Parks: Tapping the Wisdom of Their Success (Sustainable Cities Collective)