Wauwatosa 69th Street Center

Tosa Wisconsin 69th Street Milwaukee Smithgroup
69th Street Tosa SmithGroup Milwaukee
Tosa SmithGroup Milwaukee Urban Environments
Tosa SmithGroup 69th Street
Tosa SmithGroup Milwaukee

A dynamic reconfiguration of an uninviting parking lot has driven public space to the forefront in the city’s East Tosa district, demonstrating the big impact that a small-scale placemaking effort can have when it’s expertly designed in full collaboration with the community.


City of Wauwatosa


Wauwatosa, Wisconsin


Architecture, Civil Engineering, Landscape Architecture, Parks & Open Spaces, Urban Design, Urban Environments, Urban Planning


.25 AC

Featured Awards

American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), Illinois Design Excellence Awards, Outdoor Space, 2019

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North Avenue is a 16-block-long commercial corridor that runs through the center of Wauwatosa. Despite the popularity of its shops and restaurants, this heavily trafficked road lacked pedestrian and bicycle-friendly public spaces, as well as a distinctive urban identity.

To support local connection and future growth, the City adopted a plan to make North Avenue a destination street by developing a series of walkable subdistricts – each with its own civic node or center. The City chose SmithGroup to establish the design and branding precedent for this effort, and to create the first of four public centers that converts small parking lots into iconic civic plazas.


Tosa SmithGroup Milwaukee 69th Street


To design a space that was representative of the community and unique to East Tosa in its expression, our team led an 18-month long public process with the City, the Steering Committee, and neighborhood residents and business owners. This engagement not only led to unanimous support for the design program but helped push the design beyond what the corridor plan originally envisioned.

The resulting 69th Street Center is helping to redefine East Tosa as both a neighborhood hub and regional shopping and dining hot spot. The design provides an iconic gathering place where residents can walk or bike to relax and greet their neighbors. The flexible plaza space can also host a range of community festivals and events, night or day. Custom design elements include distinctive bike racks, signage, lighting, moveable tables, canopy shade structures, and giant lounge chairs that all contribute to a unique experience of place.


We all want to build something that lasts beyond us. It means everything to me now that my eight years of public service are over to visit the 69th Street plaza and see neighbors chatting and working and children running around and enjoying this phenomenal public space.

Former Alderman
Bobby Pantuso


Only two parking spaces were lost, thanks to reconfiguration of parking within and adjacent to the site. The plaza also provides a demonstration green infrastructure project for the city, effectively managing and filtering stormwater on a former gas station site through permeable pavement in the plaza and parking, along with newly planted trees and landscaping.

Thoroughly embraced by residents, the success of Wauwatosa’s 69th Street Center shows how making the most out of a small public space can yield huge community benefits.