Green Bay, Wisconsin


Four years ago, the quarter-mile-long stretch of land along the Fox River, about a block from downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin, was mostly a simple path and a large empty space behind a mall parking structure. Today, the 2.5-acre site presents a very different scene. On the first day of summer, office workers are taking a midday stroll on the Fox River bank. A muscular guy with three trotting dogs glides by on a bicycle. And in a perfect'almost nostalgic'warm-weather tableau, two boys sit at the water's edge, preparing their poles and lines for a day of fishing. 'It was not highly developed at all,' says Michelle Bailey, a downtown worker taking a minute from an afternoon stroll. 'But now, there are people here. Things are different.' 'It was nothing,' adds Bailey's colleague Linda Myers. 'Now it's coming alive.'

The transformation comes courtesy of the CityDeck, a $14 million public boardwalk with docks, landscaping, and open space built in three phases between 2009 and 2012. The project has activated the water's edge and brought the city of 106,000 closer to the eastern shore of the historic river, which flows into Lake Michigan at Green Bay. It has also served as a catalyst for real estate development on the blocks closest to the river.

'We wanted to create a place that touched the minds and the hearts of Green Bay,' states Chris Reed, principal of Stoss Landscape Urbanism, the Boston firm that designed CityDeck. Reed says his firm and Green Bay's civic leaders wanted a project in which 'you can enjoy the city and the river. And as it came to fruition over the last three years, you saw that happening.'

CityDeck begins near a line of commercial, retail, and residential buildings that create a mixed-use zone facing the riverbank. Landscaping and a northsouth path laid with elongated hexagonal concrete pavers attract pedestrians, cyclists, and joggers. But the waterfront complex changes character as it terraces down closer to the river. The pavers transition to a modern boardwalk made of durable ip' wood that yields a solid, old-school 'clump-clump' sound when trod on.

'We said, 'If this is a river town, it should have a boardwalk,' ' Reed recalls. He and his design team created substantial gathering spaces as well as quiet spots along the long wooden strip. The city programs these spaces with bands, outdoor dining, even movies. In one of its most visible features, portions of the boardwalk angle up, producing tilted surfaces on which sunbathers and sky-gazers can stretch out.

At the edge of the river, CityDeck juts toward the water, with overlooks, platforms, fishing piers, and boat docks. 'We wanted to create this incredibly layered situation, so it wasn't just one edge, but multiple edges,' Reed explains. 'We designed it so it would go down to the river. By sloping it, we could give people a different perspective'while at the same time separating these movements from the main ones away from the river.

A variety of construction methods and materials were used to create those layers. The overlooks are supported by concrete-filled pipe piles anchored in bedrock below the river. Stainless-steel X-braces between the piles keep the structure stiff against ice and other marine forces. Floating docks were designed to sustain live loads.

CityDeck also performs a less visible but important duty as a flood barrier between the Fox River and the nearby buildings. The new, engineered shoreline extends farther out in the river than the old one did, creating a deeper setback for the existing buildings. Reed explains that the team designed the project's lower portions, which would be at flood-stage positions during a storm, to let rising waters pass through them when necessary.

Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt championed CityDeck's construction. 'He put the weight of his office behind it,' Reed says. 'He said, 'Look, if we want to improve the quality of life in the city in general, we need to improve the quality of life downtown.' '

The tactic appears to be working, as the project has sparked construction and building rehabs along the river. In May the city announced plans for a $10 million, 84-unit luxury apartment complex called CityDeck Commons scheduled to be completed by December 2014.

Meanwhile, the city's planners want to make sure new developments don't wall off CityDeck from downtown, so they have extended streets and sidewalks to provide easy pedestrian access to the project.

What's next for the riverfront? Reed says people are discussing ideas for redeveloping the bank opposite CityDeck. 'If CityDeck becomes this social hub, then across the river you could have wetland terraces,' he says, hinting at a potential new project that would be a soft, layered natural counterpoint to the angular hardscape of the existing one, but would grant the same easy access to the water.

Lee Bey is a writer specializing in architecture and urban planning and a contributor for Chicago public radio station WBEZ.

Size: 109,000 square feet

Cost: $13.7 million

Completion date: October 2012


City of Green Bay

Architect [Landscape]:
Stoss Landscape Urbanism
423 W Broadway #304
Boston MA 02127
phone: 617 464 1140  
fax: 617 464 1142

Personnel in landscape architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Chris Reed, principal-in-charge, design director
Scott Bishop, project manager, lead designer
Design Team: Tim Barner, Cathy Braasch, Steve Carlucci, Jill Desimini, Adrian Fehrmann, Carl Frushour, Kristin Malone, Chris Muskopf, Susan Fitzgerald, Jana Kienitz, Lisl Kotheimer, Bryan Miyahara, Graham Palmer, Meg Studer, Sarah Wright

Architect of record [Landscape]:
Stoss Landscape Urbanism

GRAEF (formerly Graef Anhalt Schloemer & Associates) - structural engineering
Clark Dietz, Inc. - plumbing and electrical engineering
AECOM (formerly STS Consultants, Ltd.) - geotechnical and civil engineering

Light This!

Irrigation Consulting, Inc. - irrigation

Vetter Denk Architects - urban design
WF Baird & Associates, Ltd - cost estimating and civil consulting

General contractor:
The Selmer Co. (phase 1)
SMA Construction Services (phase 2)

Mike Roemer
Jeff Mirkes
John Begalke
Wausau Tile
Stoss Landscape Urbanism

Stoss Landscape Urbanism

CAD system, project management, or other software used:
Autodesk AutoCad, Rhino, Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office Business



Structural system
Supported on concrete filled pipe piles anchored 10’ into bedrock located approximately 90’ below the river.  The structural framing is glue laminated timber members treated for marine use.  Lateral stability and resistance to horizontal ice forces was provided by stainless steel cable X-bracing between the piles.  Two of the overlooks were tied into the dockwall and shoreline with a tieback pile system to provide stability.  One of the structures utilized vertical X-bracing between piles to remain free standing in the water.

Aluminum through truss gangways with IPE decking.  The gangways are designed to be raised and supported in a fixed position out of the water in the winter months. Custom manufactured by Structure Marine.

Due to the variations of the bench layouts, the benches were designed with aluminum structural frames typical trusses that could vary as the benches formation varied.  The frames were spaced at 4’-0” with 2x4 framing spanning between the trusses.  This set the structural support for the IPE decking and allowed for a smooth transition as the bench varied. 

Floating Docks:
Due to use during downtown festivals and events, the floating dock system is designed for a larger than typical live load for floating docks.  The floating docks have aluminum framing with IPE decking.  The docks are made of modular sections that facilitate removal for the winter months and minimize the use of pile guides.  All connections between sections are hidden fasteners below the decking.

Unit Pavers:
Custom unit pavers designed by Stoss, manufactured by Wausau Tile, Inc. (Wausau WI)

Bike Racks:
Bola Bicycle Rack, stainless steel, Type 304 with electropolish finish
Manufactured by Landscape Forms, Inc. (Kalamazoo MI)

Tree Grate:
Jamison Tree Grate, 4’9” x 4’9”, cast iron with a brushed finish
Manufactured by Urban Accessories (Tacoma WA)

Fixed (model no. 150NB fixed type), removable (model no. 150NB locking and removable type), and manually retractable bollards (model no. MRB150A)
Manufactured by Vannaclip

Trash Receptacle:
Cameo trash receptacle model CAT-SS-360-F-SS-S, stainless steel with satin finish
Manufactured by Creative Pipe, Inc. (Rancho Mirage CA)

Trench Drain:
Jamison trench drain, cast iron with brushed finish
Manufactured by Urban Accessories (Tacoma WA)

Water Feature:
Manufactured by Aquadeux International, Inc. (St Basile Canada)

Activation post:
Electrostatic control bollard, model 050, for embedded installation

In-ground nozzles:
Finesse Jets 110, stainless steel flush mounted water jets

Irrigation System:
LUB + XLUB Irrigation Tuft Boxes manufactured by Pentek (Milwaukee WI)

Structural Planting Soils:
Stalite lightweight planting soil
aggregate supplied by Carolina Stalite Company (Salisbury NC)
soil manufactured by CTL Group (Skokie IL)

Lightweight Structural fill:
aggregate supplied by Carolina Stalite Company (Salisbury NC)
Stalite lightweight structural fill with Expanded polystyrene geofoam blocks

Fiber Reinforced Turf:
Turf Grids manufactured by Fibersoils (Baton Rouge LA)

Metal Fabrications:
‘Stainless Steel Rope’ - Stainless steel cabling materials and anchorage system manufactured by Jakob, Inc. (Delray Beach FL)

Ornamental Handrails and Railings:
Manufactured by Kelly Rail and Custom Fabrication (Green Bay WI)
Ornamental railings aluminum finish manufactured by Kelly Architectural Metals (Suamico WI)

FRP Gradings (Fiberglass Reinforced Polymer):
Molded Fiberglass Grating, 1.5” by 1.5” square mesh DuraGrate manufactured by Strongwell DuraGrate (Bristol VA)

Lighting supplied by Northern Electric (Santa Rosa CA):
under bench lighting: exterior LED strip light, warm white and cool white manufactured by Prolume, Inc. (Monroe CT)
LED marker light on bleachers: LED 0.9W 30V 21m blue manufactured by ERCO Lighting, Inc. (Edison NJ)
overhead pole lighting: fixture head with a Silvania m150/U/830 lamp #Thylia and fixture pole#EF-20-MDE-2/180-akzo grey manufactured by Schreder Lighting LLC
theatrical pole: fixture head – Thylia, and fixture pole - #EF-20-MDE-2/180-TTLB-akzo grey modified to have horizontal support bracket with 6 twist and lock manufactured by Schreder Lighting LLC

Tree Species:
Cladrastis kentukea – Kentucky Yellowwood
Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’ – Maidenhair Tree
Ulmus Americana ‘Liberty’ – American Elm