Esswein, Carolyn

(414) 977-7744
Arch & Urban Planning 389


Associate Professor Carolyn is a designer, planner and educator whose work with communities is making them more inclusive and resilient. Utilizing her 25+ years of community planning and development consulting, she integrates urban design and engagement skills to transform a variety of project scales. Her work has resulted in more than 30 new parks and plazas, vibrant retail and business districts, and economic development initiatives creating new housing and homeownership opportunities. Her primary role for 20 years was in consulting, Carolyn brings her experience to UWM with practice-based teaching, coordinates the Masters of Architecture/Masters of Urban Planning joint degree program and Master of Urban Design Program. Carolyn’s urban design studios and capstone course take on current development opportunities in the City from redevelopment of the Harbor District, policies for converting vacant parcels in the central city, to leveraging the new arena investment, all providing a local conversation about what’s possible beyond traditional development. WUWM Radio Show.

As Director of Community Design Solutions (CDS)from 2012 to 2023, Carolyn facilitated 13 Community Charettes in Milwaukee and managed more than 350 individual projects throughout southeastern Wisconsin. All CDS staff were architecture and planning students. Engaging students, local architects, community stakeholders, developers and funders, and city staff, the charette process has been integral to representing a variety of voices. Working with the non-profit Reflo and Milwaukee Public Schools, Carolyn and the student teams created design concepts and public engagement sessions to convert 36 public schoolyards from asphalt to outdoor play, classrooms, and stormwater management. Other CDS projects include façade enhancement and adaptive reuse projects, new construction, campus spaces, and public spaces. Carolyn has received numerous state and regional awards for her work including the WCREW Spire Award for her impact on real estate and development in Wisconsin, MANDI Navigator finalist for her impact on Milwaukee neighborhoods, and Community Based Faculty of the Year from UWM. Carolyn has a Bachelor of Science degree from UW-Madison and a Master of Architecture & Master of Urban Planning degrees from UW-Milwaukee. Carolyn is a Fellow with the American Institute of Certified Planners (FAICP) and Accredited with Congress for New Urbanism (CNU-A). Carolyn continues to practice community planning as the owner of Ce Planning Studio.

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Registrations and Memberships

AICP College of Fellows (FAICP)
Congress for New Urbanism – Accredited (CNU-A)
Executive Board Member – American Planning Association, Wisconsin Chapter
Executive Board Member – Congress for New Urbanism, Wisconsin Chapter


Master of Architecture, University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, 1994
Master of Urban Planning, University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, 1994
Bachelor of Science, University of Wisconsin- Madison, 1990

Research Focus

Urban Design and Community Development
Sustainable Development Practices
Public Engagement


ARCH 749 /URBPLAN 857– Urban Design as Public Policy
ARCH 340/URBPLAN 751 – Introduction to Urban Design and Physical Planning
ARCH 650/850 URBPLAN 858/992 – Urban Design Community Redevelopment Studio
URBPLAN 811 – Applied Planning Workshop, graduate capstone course

External Link

Selected Work

Community Design and Development Charettes, 13 completed, Milwaukee – implementation impact includes more than $100 million invested in converting vacant schools and buildings into affordable housing and community amenities, America’s Black Holocaust Museum, conversion of vacant big boxes to jobs and makerspaces, new cafes, healthy grocery in a food desert, training centers, wellness center, and more.

17+ public schoolyards transformed from asphalt to outdoor classrooms, stormwater features, and safe play. Recognized with numerous awards include US Department of Education for Green Schools.

Leveraging the Arena

New Berlin City Center Redevelopment, $45 million invested, new identity with affordable and market-rate housing within a walkable city center.

West Allis Six Point Redevelopment, $50 million added value with new housing, enhanced Farmer’s Market, and clinic.

Racine Regency Mall Redevelopment Vision as mixed-use development to convert failing mall.

Drexel Town Square Development Plan, Oak Creek, $194 million investment, new heart of the city
Village of Fontana Porter Court Plaza, Mixed-Use Development, Highway Beautification,
Lakefront Development Plan, $10 million added value.

East Side BID Market Study and Redevelopment Plan, Milwaukee.

Lindsay Heights Revitalization, Milwaukee. $70 million invested, 164 new houses, increased home-ownership.

Home Gr/Own 20 Vacant Parcels to Parks, northwest side of Milwaukee.

Fond du Lac and North Neighborhood Area Plan, Milwaukee – established the standard for 13 additional Area Plans.

Villard Street Library Mixed-Use Development, Milwaukee – established standard for all future mixed-use library projects.

Urban Land Institute Hines Student Competition Finalist, 2015 New Orleans Redevelopment – Faculty Advisor.

West Allis Comprehensive Plan, 35 Redevelopment Site Scenarios and Public/Private Cost Benefit Analysis - Milwaukee Mile Proposal.

Oak Creek Drexel Square
OakCreek puzzle play
Shorewood Central District
Villard Library Housing
West Allis Mile