City committee votes to retain Fourth Street in Bucks deal

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:14 pm

The Milwaukee Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee threw a wrench in the Milwaukee Bucks’ vision for a Live Plaza along North Fourth Street Tuesday by voting to keep the street as part of the city’s right-of-way.

As part of the $500 million arena project, Bucks owners are planning to buy the city’s parking structure at West Juneau Avenue and North Fourth Street, demolish the structure and use the land on Fourth Street – from Juneau to Highland – as a public gathering place.

Alderman Robert Bauman brought forth the amendment, saying he agreed with the overall financing package, but had several issues of concern with building design, labor provisions and land use.

“It is a great mistake for the city to vacate Fourth Street,” Bauman said. “I understand the Bucks’ positon but I’m astonished at the city’s position, that we would give away our power.”

Bauman suggested the city work with the Bucks like it has with the Wisconsin Center and close Fourth Street when there are events taking place.  Wells Street is closed by the city during events at the Wisconsin Center.

Milwaukee Bucks president Peter Feigin said connectivity between Fourth Street and the Milwaukee River is very important to the vision of the Milwaukee Bucks.  He stressed that there will be 200-plus events per year and traffic will be a deterrent.

“We have just started to absorb the amendments,” Feigin said. “We want to have a walking square where people can feel safe and great. Automobile traffic does just the opposite.”

The Fourth Street amendment was approved 3-2 with support from Aldermen Nik Kovac and Jose Perez. Aldermen Willie Wade and James Bohl voted against the measure.

The committee also unanimously passed an amendment that would allow the city to sell naming rights for the $35 million parking structure the city will build as part of the deal.

The amendments were added during the committee’s discussion of the tax incremental financing development package for the proposed $500 million downtown arena project. The Bucks will pay $250 million for the project with the public paying the remaining $250 million, including $47 million from the city.

As of press time, the committee had not voted on the entire package.

The amendments and the package will be sent to the entire Common Council for its vote on Sept. 22. The council’s vote is the last major hurdle for the arena deal.

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