Sometimes, the system works against the greater public good, and well-intended projects get sidetracked or even derailed. Then there are those other times, when the system works exactly like it’s supposed to work, and the right thing gets done in the end.
The latter may very well be the case today when the Milwaukee Common Council voted to approve a proposed $50 million, 200-room Marriott hotel project in downtown Milwaukee.
In the end, all of the parties involved in the controversial project acted in their own self-interests, and in the end, the council did the right thing.
The developers for the Marriott project, Jackson Street Management LLC, acted in their self-interests by proposing the project at the southwest corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Milwaukee Street.
The Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission did its job by demanding the developers alter their proposal to preserve the facades of the buildings on Wisconsin Avenue. The commission went a step further and demanded the facades on Milwaukee Street be preserved and that the hotel plan be changed to include 15-foot setbacks.
The developers reacted in their own self-interests by refusing to preserve the unremarkable Milwaukee Street facades and refusing to concede to the setbacks.
Some people suggested that the members of the Historic Preservation Commission be removed by the mayor, who disagreed with the very people he had appointed. However, to do so would have completely neutered the commission’s role in the process and rendered it useless.
Meanwhile, The Marcus Corp., owner of the nearby Pfister Hotel, acted in its self-interests by protesting that new hotel developments should not receive public subsidies to create competition for existing hotels.
Greg Marcus, chief executive officer of the venerable Milwaukee company, raised a very legitimate concern: “If we are going to get more rooms, how are we going to fill the rooms? That’s the question. What’s the game plan?”
The council then weighed the concerns from the preservationists and The Marcus Corp. against the 350 to 450 temporary construction jobs and 175 to 200 full-time permanent jobs to be created by the new hotel.
In the end, a super majority of the council approved the project.
In the end, there was no Jewish “cabal” that stopped the project, as one talk radio blowhard had opined.
And in the end, the new hotel will be built in downtown Milwaukee. Now, it’s up to the rest of us do what we can to grow the region to create the demand to justify that hotel’s existence.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.