A Brewery Complex Renewed

with Blue-Ribbon Practices

The former Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery is being turned into a sustainable neighborhood that follows best stormwater management practices and is now able to absorb 75 percent of the stormwater that falls on the site, in the process preventing 85 percent of the pollutants in the stormwater from reaching the city’s drains.


The old, abandoned Pabst brewery complex is being given new life. The 25-acre site of the former brewery is being re-purposed into a neighborhood with hotels, apartments, offices, and bars. The buildings that could not be repurposed were removed, but 95 percent of the materials were recycled or reused. The stormwater that falls on the complex is directed to filtration areas under the site where it drains more slowly so as not to overwhelm the sewer system. Other features include porous pavement, bioswales, and tree lawns open enough to accommodate the full height of mature trees, thereby minimizing tree culling. Once buildings are purchased the owners must disconnect them from the city sewerage system and redirect the water flow from the rooftops into the retention areas on site.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Contaminated soil
  • Few places for rainwater to flow
  • High levels of runoff

Results and Accomplishments

The instillation of swales, rain gardens, and large underground water holding tanks that drain slowly has decreased the rate rainwater enters the Milwaukee stormwater system. The Brewery site now absorbs 75 percent of the annual rainfall and through these features it is able to remove 85 percent of the pollutants in the water. The goal is to create a sustainable neighborhood with housing, commercial space, and mixed-use buildings.


Bioswale in Milwaukee to absorb runoff

In the renovated neighborhood, bioswales filter water into a 250,000 gallon reservoir below ground, delaying flood water from entering the town’s stormwater system. The native plants are also both drought and salt tolerant—important in a cold climate where salt builds up in the streets over the winter. Photo credit: Zilber Ltd.