After months of speculation and conjecture, the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday unveiled ambitious preliminary plans to develop a $500 million arena situated north of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, with plans for another $500 million worth of ancillary development that would create a downtown entertainment district.
Along with a modern-looking, 700,000-square-foot, 17,000-seat arena, the Bucks’ plans call for a 60,000-square-foot public plaza that would exist as an entertainment site, known as the “live walk.” Much of that site, including a public space with a canopy and a beer garden, would occupy the Park East corridor, a vacant plot of land on North Fourth Street and West Highland Avenue.
The entertainment development on the Park East property would encompass 1 million square feet, according to the Bucks’ plans, with space for hotels, residential units, offices, retail, arena parking and entertainment amenities. Additionally, the Bucks announced plans to construct a state-of-the-art practice facility on the west end of the Park East property. The Bucks’ current practice facility resides in leased space at the Archbishop Cousin Center in St. Francis.
Leading the design of the new entertainment hub is Populous, a Kansas City, Mo.-based architecture and planning firm. The Bucks have appointed Populous to oversee a group of global, national and local architects, including HNTB, also of Kansas City, and Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects.
The design plan involves closing Fourth Street between the live walk and the arena to create an expansive outdoor plaza, which would act as an entrance to the arena and “a gathering place for the community,” said Brad Clark, senior designer at Populous.
The Bucks’ ownership and the design team emphasize that the entertainment site would be active year round with 24/7 offerings.
According to architect Greg Uhen, the design of the space would create “connective tissue” that would connect the Park East property to other successful neighborhoods and developments in Milwaukee, including the former Pabst Brewery, Schlitz Park, Bronzeville, the Milwaukee Riverwalk, Old World Third Street and the Wisconsin Center District.
“This is realistic stuff,” Uhen said of the plan. “This is not pie in the sky.”
The Bucks are working on a tight timeframe, according to team co-owner Mike Fascitelli, who is the “quarterback” of the project.
In total, the new development could span up to 30 acres and 3 million square feet of offices, residential units, hotels, commercial sites, parking structures and more.
As “a collective team,” the Bucks’ owners and design team want to build “a lasting symbol for this community and all of Wisconsin,” Clark said.
As for the BMO Harris Bradley Center, the Bucks’ leadership plan to demolish the 27-year-old facility and erect hotels, offices and other commercial sites in its place.
The Bucks are still negotiating to find a corporation to purchase the naming rights for the new arena, Feigin said. The team denied the validity of a Google Maps designation of a “Harley Davidson Arena” at the site.
The team’s leadership hopes to break ground on the facility this fall and open the new arena in time for the 2017 basketball season.
That time frame would appear to be ambitious, at best, given that it still has not been decided how the public financing part of the development will be generated. Notably absent from today’s announcement were Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Able, as well as members of the State Legislature, the Milwaukee Common Council and Milwaukee County Board. In addition, prospective tenants such as Marquette University and the Milwaukee Admirals also were not represented in the announcement.
Editor’s update: The following public statements were made after the announcement about the plans for the new arena development in downtown Milwaukee:
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett: “Adding a world-class venue and more mixed-use development to the momentum we’re seeing in and around downtown is very exciting. The benefits to the state, the region and Milwaukee in terms of jobs, attracting investment and growing the tax base are key ingredients. That’s why I continue to support the Governor’s plan. I appreciate the efforts of all the interested parties to step up and continue working to make this project a reality.”
Bill Scholl, vice president and director of athletics for Marquette University: “We continue to be encouraged by the momentum surrounding the arena discussions as well as the leadership and vision of the Bucks ownership group. We have a strategic partnership with the Bucks leadership team as evidenced by our recent announcement to collaborate on a new a multi-purpose facility that supports elite-level intercollegiate and professional athletics as well as academic research. Our men’s basketball program is excited about the prospect of playing in a new arena. It will provide a tremendous state-of-the-art facility for our student-athletes, it will have a significant impact on recruiting, and it will provide our incredible fan base, including our students, with a game-day experience second to none in the country. Those are all critically important factors as we strive to be one of the elite programs in the nation.”
Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin (CARW) chairman Paul Galbraith: “This is the single-most catalytic project for downtown Milwaukee in a generation with the prospect of $1 billion in new real estate development. Not only will we all benefit from the construction of the arena, but the ancillary development, increase in property values, job creation, and connectivity this project will provide for our community and our region for decades to come as new phases of the project come to fruition.”
Marc Marotta, chairman of the BMO Harris Bradley Center board of directors: “The Milwaukee Bucks have informed the BMO Harris Bradley Center Board that the team is interested in locating the new multipurpose entertainment facility on open land north of the current BMO Harris Bradley Center building. This land is currently used primarily for parking and includes property the BMO Harris Bradley Center Board has assembled over the last decade with an eye toward the future. It would appear that the foresight of previous boards and the current board was right on target. We are excited about working with the Milwaukee Bucks, state and local officials and others, and we look forward to assisting in whatever way we can. It is great to see the team’s vision for the future begin to take shape, and I am confident that our Board will work hard to find the right way to properly convey this property to whatever the appropriate entity might be after more of the details are finalized. In the meantime, our Board will continue to do what is best for the community, and that includes maintaining the current BMO Harris Bradley Center as the focal point of the Downtown entertainment scene. Our Board is committed to working with the Bucks and others on making the dream of a new Downtown multipurpose entertainment facility that benefits the entire region and the state a reality. Our Board stands ready to move forward.”