County Board panel endorses O’Donnell parking structure sale to NML

The Milwaukee County Board’s Economic and Community Development Committee this week endorsed a proposal to sell the O’Donnell Park parking structure near the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee to Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.

Under the proposal, Northwestern Mutual would purchase the parking structure at 929-31 E. Michigan St. in downtown Milwaukee for $12.7 million (the appraised value of $14 million less a $1.3 million credit for the cost of known repairs needed for the garage’s roof).

The sale was endorsed by the committee on a 4-2 vote. The deal is still subject to approval by the full County Board.

Northwestern Mutual wants to purchase the structure to providing parking for its employees. The company is building a $450 million, 1.1-square-foot expansion to its corporate headquarters and plans to add 1,900 employees there by 2030 and needs additional parking spaces as it expands employment.

The county still owes about $6.6 million on the parking structure, which was built in 1993. Interest costs and service costs related to retiring the debt are estimated to be $1.1 million. The county would net about $5 million from the sale of the structure to Northwestern Mutual.

Northwestern Mutual has pledged to improve O’Donnell Park, which is on top of the parking structure, and maintain it is a park open to the public. The company’s planned improvements to the facility are expected to exceed $6 million.

A deed restriction for the northern half of the property and the zoning for the entire site would have to be changed by the city if Northwestern Mutual wanted to replace the park with private development. The proposed sale of the parking structure would add authority to the county to also approve or deny removal of the deed restrictions.

Northwestern Mutual has also pledged to maintain the parking structure for at least 20 years. At least 200 parking spaces in the structure will be available to the public at market rates on all week days, as part of the proposed sale agreement with the county.

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