Winning entry to rename Milwaukee's Pittsburgh Ave. is Freshwater Way

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee's Pittsburgh Avenue could soon be renamed Freshwater Way. The proposed name was announced on Tuesday, October 9th at the Milwaukee Water Summit -- after a global water center was built on the Fifth Ward street.

Freshwater Way will run through the redeveloped Reed Street Yards in the city's Fifth Ward, which will house a business park featuring water technology companies.

"The city is investing millions of dollars in that area to develop freshwater technologies. We feel this is playing to our long suit," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Tuesday.

Last summer, city leaders broke ground on a new global water center near 3rd Street. The center will serve as headquarters for the Milwaukee Water Council, and the hope is to lure water-related businesses to the area as well.

"It's really a recognition of what our specialty is in Milwaukee -- that is freshwater," Dean Amhaus, the President of the Milwaukee Water Council said.

Officials say the proposed name reflects Milwaukee’s expertise in freshwater industry and science, the abundance of freshwater in the region and the city’s status as a UN Global Compact City for Freshwater Management.

The city anticipates investing between up to $6 million in infrastructure along Freshwater Way, including streets and a RiverWalk, and environmental remediation in the Reed Street Yards area. The goal is to create an urban water research and technology park that attracts new jobs and investment to the city.

The Reed Street Yards spans a vacant parcel along South 6th St., just south of the canal between the Harley Davidson Museum and the Iron Horse Hotel.

The city launched a month-long contest calling for suggestions for renaming Pittsburgh Avenue, and a panel reviewed over 650 submissions -- with suggestions that incorporated words such as Aqua, Hydro, Liquid, Poseidon, Clear, Flow, and H2O.

A few suggested names of current or former prominent Milwaukeeans, and a number of entries suggested keeping Pittsburgh as the street name – although a lot of those were out-of-state entries from people in Pennsylvania.

Not all residents are warming up to the proposed Freshwater Way name change, though.

"A number of people raised the question, 'Why doing all this work to tout Milwaukee along Pittsburgh Avenue?'" Mayor Barrett said.

"I think it's going to be confusing for a lot of people, especially since we've been here since 1984," Rob Hrycay, who manages Mainstage Theatrical Supply on Pittsburgh Avenue said.

Hrycay says he'll have to change the mailing address and redo all the labels for the business. He suggests renaming just a part of the street would've been more convenient, but understands the big picture of economic growth.

"If it attracts people, then it's good for the neighborhood," Hrycay said.

The panel that selected the name Freshwater Way included Alderman Jose Perez, along with representatives of the business park land owner, the Milwaukee Water Council, city departments and John Gurda -- the chairman of the Citizen Advisory Committee on the Naming of Public Buildings, Facilities and Streets.

The committee will review the recommendation and the Milwaukee Common Council will ultimately decide whether to officially rename Pittsburgh Avenue as Freshwater Way.