Harbor District Inc., a small non-profit located on the urban shoreline of Milwaukee’s inner harbor, is addressing a problem most Milwaukeeans don’t see: the “aquatic desert” that exists where Lake Michigan connects with Milwaukee’s three rivers.
While the steel sheet piling, concrete and other vertical structures that line the port serve a necessary purpose, they also makes the water uninhabitable for the estimated 54 species of fish that live in and around the harbor.
The fish, including species like bass and yearling perch, are stripped of shelter and food along the important pathway to Lake Michigan from the river, or vice versa.
This observation led Harbor District Inc. to an innovative urban habitat solution: The Habitat Hotels.
These vertical structures reach nearly 10 feet below the water’s surface and feature layered planter baskets that contain soil and gravel which host native aquatic plants.
The design for the Habitat Hotels was motivated by the broader goal of finding better ways to reintroduce habitat to urban environment s– finding ways for habitat to co-exist in urban spaces, not be replaced by it.
"We can have functioning industry, and good jobs and a very urban environment that still provides an urban ecology."
Click the play button on the video above to learn more about how the Habitat Hotels were developed, in addition to seeing how UCC Acosta middle schoolers contributed to the project. To listen to the audio interview, click below.
Watch how Milwaukee’s condo boom influenced the design for a new kind of habitat… for fish.