Visit the MKE Urban Stables, 143 E. Lincoln Ave., across the Kinnickinnic River from Baran Park, and something feels immediately special.
Stepping through the portal of the new $5.65 million, 27,000-square foot facility – designed by Uihlein-Wilson/Ramlow-Stein Architects – on a four-acre city-owned site, you’re transported from the urban industrial across Lincoln Avenue to a bucolic, almost rural setting.
The complex was built – primarily with private funding – as a new home for the Milwaukee Police Department’s (MPD) Mounted Patrol Unit, but thanks to the idea of Officer John Peterson, a member of the unit since it was started in 1999 and the vision and hard work of many others, it is now so much more.
“Through MKE Urban Stables we have an opportunity to achieve three goals at once – a home for the MPD Mounted Patrol Unit; access to equine therapy for urban residents; and a public space for community and police engagement,” says board president Kent Lovern, who is chief deputy district attorney for Milwaukee County.
The building in front is divided into to spaces, one dedicated to the mounted patrol and the other side to the public, with large and small meeting rooms and offices for the MKE Urban Stables.
A bit farther back is a large indoor riding arena that can be used by MPD and for equine therapy and other uses. Lovern foresees this space being used in a variety of ways by the public in coming years, including special events.
Down the hall is a door that opens into a state-of-the-art barn with wash stalls and two wings of 12 stalls each.
On one side are stalls for the 10 MPS Percherons, towering horses used by the patrol. On the other are spaces for the therapy horses, of which there are currently five, though Lovern expects that number to ultimately reach 12.
Among the five are two 20-year-old miniature horses and one absolutely adorable miniature donkey called Prissy. Lovern describes her as a “people donkey,” and when you approach her stall she practically comes running over to greet you.