City panel approves TIF funds for arena project

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

The Milwaukee Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee today approved plans for the city to provide $47 million in tax incremental financing for the new downtown arena project for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Aldermen Jim Bohl, Willie Wade, Robert Bauman and Jose Perez voted in favor of the arena project funding. Alderman Nik Kovac voted against the TIF funds for the arena project.

The final vote by the Common Council is scheduled for Sept. 22. The Common Council is the last approval hurdle needed for the arena financing deal. The current and former Bucks owners have pledged to pay for half of the $500 million cost of the arena. The other half would be paid for by the public with a combination of state, city, county and Wisconsin Center District funds.

Although the ZND committee approved the city funding plan today, committee members added some amendments to the deal that were opposed by the Bucks. One amendment eliminated plans to close North Fourth Street between the arena and the “Live Block” plaza that the Bucks plan to create on the east side of that street. The closure of the street is considered by the Bucks to be an important way to make the connection between the arena and “Live Block” as pedestrian friendly as possible. But Ald. Robert Bauman, who introduced the amendment, said the street doesn’t need to be closed when there are no events occurring at the arena.

The committee also added an amendment to allow the city to collect any naming rights revenue from a $35 million parking structure that the city will build near the arena.

The committee also added an amendment to require the three core portions of the arena project (the arena, parking structure and public plaza) comply with the city’s M.O.R.E. ordinance for local worker hiring requirements.

The amendments approved by the ZND committee will be subject to change or approval by the full Common Council.

Bucks president Peter Feigin said some of the changes recommended today by the committee were surprising.

“A lot of this is back to the drawing board discussions for us,” he said.

But aldermen pointed out that while the Bucks had negotiated the deal with Mayor Tom Barrett’s administration, the Common Council has its say and must grant final approval.

“The Common Council makes policy in the city of Milwaukee,” Bohl said. “The policy makers are here, and we have a right to modify items and make changes.”

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