County supervisor wants board to back Marcus Center historic designation

Public hearing will be held April 1

An updated rendering of the Marcus Center's exterior.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:09 pm

A Milwaukee County supervisor wants the county board to back the designation of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts as a historic property.

County board supervisor Steven Shea will introduce a resolution Thursday to have the board endorse permanent historic status for the center’s downtown Milwaukee campus, located at 929 N. Water Street.

Two Milwaukee architects have spearheaded the historic designation effort to slow the Marcus Center’s plans to alter its landscape architecture. Those plans, which would involve removing a grove of 36 horse chestnut trees, are part of a larger redevelopment project on the campus over the next three to five years.

Since the plans were announced, preservationists have taken issue with the removal of the tree grove, which was designed by prominent post-war landscape architect Dan Kiley.

In February, the city’s Historic Preservation Committee approved a temporary historic designation for the Marcus Center. It will decide whether to grant the permanent designation in April.

Marcus Center leaders have said they want to create a more open and accessible gathering place for the community on the campus by creating a park-like setting in front of the Peck Pavilion. Plans include expanding the plaza, installing new water fountains and establishing a flexible great lawn for events, which will require the removal of the trees. A host of interior improvements at the center are also planned.

If the Marcus Center is given historic designation, any changes to the building and grounds would require approval from the Historic Preservation Commission.

The building was designed by Chicago architect Harry Weese in the Brutalist style and completed in 1969. The Marcus Center leases the building from Milwaukee County, which owns the building and the campus’s land.

A public hearing will be held during the Historic Preservation Committee meeting on April 1.

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