Ballet, UWM and MCW may need 70,000 sq.ft. location downtown

The Milwaukee Ballet recently announced plans to build a new facility in partnership with Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin and UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts.  The joint facility will include new studio rooms and performance center for the Ballet, the school and UWM; it will also include a full sports medicine clinic for the dancers, artists and the public.
“The Milwaukee Ballet has enjoyed a thirty plus year history down here in Walkers Point,” said Dennis Buehler, executive director of the Milwaukee Ballet. “We’ve been an anchor down here for a long time, but we’ve simply outgrown our current facility and there isn’t much opportunity to expand in our current location.”
According to Buehler, the Ballet is working with the City of Milwaukee to relocate somewhere in the arts district of downtown or the Water Street corridor area.
No official designs or square foot numbers have been announced, but the Ballet has worked with some preliminary architects and tossed around numbers between 70,000 and 75,000 square feet, Buehler said.
The Ballet’s current facility is around 30,000 square feet; to accommodate the needs of the expanding Ballet and the needs of the partner institutions the new space will have to be bigger, he said.
“There are a number of options that could exist in the downtown area,” Buehler said. “We’re well into conversations with the city about their longer term redevelopment plans because a project that puts three major cultural institutions in one place could be a catalyst for any number of future projects as well.”
"Launching this partnership with the Ballet and Medical College is a top priority for the Peck School and I am delighted that we are moving ahead," said Wade Hobgood, dean of the Peck School of the Arts. "Not only will it provide a crucial solution to space limitations that we all face, but just as importantly, it will raise the profile of UWM’s high caliber artistic and creative talents."
In addition to the full sports medicine facility, the partner institutions also plan to create an extension program that would offer health, wellness and exercise classes to the public too.
“We believe this center will be a lot about the arts and wellness and bringing those qualities into people’s everyday lives,” Buehler said. “There seems to be a little wall built up around the Ballet School and its programs; people may not know they are welcome to participate and we’re hoping the extension will provide that engagement and recreational activity for them.”
The initiative recently received a $1 million commitment from the Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation to support the project, which mirrors a commitment made by the Dohmen Family Foundation in 2009. The Herzfeld gift, payable over the next five years, allows the partnership to take critical next steps that establishes a project cabinet, considers additional creative partners, and identifies a studio site, while also pursuing an architect of record.
"The Herzfeld Foundation enthusiastically supports this catalytic project at a critical time because it enhances the vitality of Milwaukee’s artistic center and brings together, in a wonderful collaboration, the creative energies of the Ballet, its School, the Medical College and UWM’s Peck School of the Arts all to the benefit of its participants, and the economic and cultural benefit of our community," said Bill Haberman, the Foundation’s president.
The effort, known now as the Harmony Initiative, is expected to be completed within five years, Buhler said.
“That’s what we’re hoping for, we may need to make some adjustments to that timeline in the future, but for now we are continuing in deep conversations with the City,” he said.

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