County Board member pitches study of potential entertainment district east of American Family Field

American Family Field

Last updated on June 9th, 2022 at 11:05 pm

A Milwaukee County Board supervisor wants the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, which oversees American Family Field, to work with the city of Milwaukee and village of West Milwaukee to study the possibility of converting 82 acres of surface parking lots east of the stadium into a mixed-use entertainment district.

A resolution from 15th District Supervisor Peter Burgelis also calls for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to study the possible “dismantlement” of the Stadium Freeway (state Highway 175) south of Interstate 94 to West National Avenue, which could restore the street grid and connect it to an entertainment district development.

Burgelis’ resolution also encourages Komatsu Mining Corp. to collaborate the redevelopment of its site northeast of National Avenue and Brewers Boulevard with any development that occurs on the stadium parking lots. Komatsu plans to vacate and redevelop the site after it completes its move to its new campus in Milwaukee’s Harbor District.

Development of an entertainment district on some of the parking lots east of American Family Field, on the other side of Highway 175 along South 44th Street/Court, would provide additional property tax revenue for the city and county, Burgelis’ resolution states.

In addition, tax incremental financing could be used to collect revenue for potential needed upgrades to the stadium. The established TIF funds would have to be fully collected before additional tax revenues from the development could flow to local governments.

“I represent District 15, which includes the stadium grounds, and I want to use my platform to advance whatever is in the best interest for my constituents. … They don’t want to be on the hook for another stadium sales tax, so it is important to at least start a conversation,” Burgelis said. “I don’t think we will ever run out of parking spots. I learned how to drive in the snow on those lots, but I think there is more community benefits that can come from that land on the other 150 days of the year than just learning how to drive in the snow.”

Jeff Fleming, spokesman for Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, said the mayor does not have an immediate reaction to the Burgelis proposal.

“At this point we don’t have much to add,” said Fleming. “We will be in contact with the appropriate public and private sector partners on this topic when the time is right.”

West Milwaukee officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but Burgelis said he has had very preliminary conversations with state and local officials who he said were encouraging, telling him that that it was “an interesting idea that still warrants additional conversation.”

The stadium’s parking lots sit empty most of the year “and rarely fill” even on game days, Burgelis’ resolution states.

“The highest and best use for land in the center of Milwaukee County is not acres upon acres of parking lot which sit vacant for most of the year,” the resolution states, adding that the stadium’s “approximately 13,000 spaces are greater than the combined parking of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Epcot, at 11,000 spaces.”

The Milwaukee Brewers declined to comment on the proposal on Monday, and Burgelis himself stated that he had not contacted them.

He did, however, state that we would like to start a conversation with the team.

“Clearly this is something that warrants more discussions, because frankly nothing will happen without the Brewers blessings,” he added.

Pat Goss, executive director for the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball District, which manages state-owned land where the stadium and its parking lots sit, said the agency was not contacted by Burgelis. He agreed that any change in use involving the parking lots would have to get clearance from the Brewers.

“Clearly this is something that if it were to happen, it would be more for something for the Brewers to pursue. I just know that they were very much caught off guard (by the Burgelis resolution) like us,” Goss said.

The resolution points to similar redevelopments around other sports stadiums that created “significant commercial activity,” including the Deer District by the Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee and Green Bay’s Titletown District alongside Lambeau Field.

As part of his proposal, Burgelis is requesting that the state Department of Transportation (WisDOT) study dismantling Stadium Freeway (Highway 175) south of Interstate 94. WisDOT is currently studying reconfiguring – possibly as a boulevard – Stadium Freeway North, a mile-and-a-half long highway spur that runs from West Vilet Street to Lisbon Avenue.

Removing the highway as a barrier could help bolster redevelopment of the 82 acres under consideration, as well as the Komatsu property, the proposal states:

“According to the City of Milwaukee Department of City Development, the demolition of the 0.8-mile (downtown Milwaukee) Park East Spur in 2003 allowed for reintegration and redevelopment of around 24 acres back into the fabric of the Westown and Lower East Side neighborhoods in the City of Milwaukee, improving urban living with new commercial and residential developments….

…Redevelopment of land east of the Stadium Freeway and the soon-to-be former Komatsu property, has the potential to be even more transformational for the City of Milwaukee and Village of West Milwaukee than the removal of the Park East Freeway, (and) could help restore the street grid, revitalize neighborhoods and improve racial equity, create a fun and vibrant mixed-use destination which could attract visitors on non-event days, and contribute to the property tax base of the City of Milwaukee.”

It is not immediately clear when the full County Board will consider the resolution. The body’s next regularly scheduled meeting is June 23. The resolution has been assigned to the County Board’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

American Family Field area. Image from Google.
American Family Field area. Image from Google.
Cara covers commercial and residential real estate. She has an extensive background in local government reporting and hopes to use her experience writing about both urban and rural redevelopment to better inform readers. Cara lives in Waukesha with her husband, a teenager, a toddler, a dog named Neutron, a bird named Potter, and a lizard named Peyoye. She loves music, food, and comedy, but not necessarily in that order.

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