The city of Milwaukee says it is committed to the redevelopment of a prime city-owned site across from the expanding convention center, even as city officials look to sign a new lease with the long-time parking lot operator there.
The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee on Thursday will consider a lease of the site, at 401-441 W. Wisconsin Ave., to ABM Onsite Services. The lease will replace the existing 2013 agreement with the parking-lot operator. It would also allow ABM to make $100,000 in improvements to the property for its continued parking operations. The new lease also needs Common Council approval.
The lease is viewed as a temporary use of the site, and the long-term plan remains to redevelop the site, according to the Milwaukee Department of City Development.
DCD said in response to a BizTimes inquiry that the new lease will be for five years. The city could terminate the lease with a "triggering event," such as a development proposal.
RACM owns the approximately 2-acre lot southwest of West Wisconsin and North Vel R. Phillips avenues. The city in 2016 sought interested parties to redevelop the site. And in 2019, officials unveiled plans for the Vel R. Phillips Plaza at the lot. The plaza would be a public component of future development.
Nothing has yet moved forward. But, DCD said work to transform the site is ongoing.
DCD said plaza design work is underway, and Mayor Tom Barrett's administration is preparing to request funding for its construction next year. The department did not get into specifics on funding sources.
As originally planned, the plaza is to include a stop for The Hop streetcar. City leaders wish to extend the streetcar northward to the doorstep of the Fiserv Forum, and beyond to Bronzeville. An acre of the 401 W. Wisconsin block would be reserved for private development.
The city is seeking federal funding to extend The Hop from the intermodal station to the corner Phillips and Wisconsin, DCD said.
DCD added the intent is for the plaza to be completed by 2024. It would coincide with the late Vel R. Phillips' 100th birthday and the completion of the Wisconsin Center's $420 million expansion.
Milwaukee-based firms Marcus Hotels & Resorts and Jackson Street Holdings LLC responded to the city's 2016 request for proposals for a development at the site. Each development would have created around 500 hotel rooms plus meeting space.
Both were dependent on the Wisconsin Center expanding. The facility's operator, the Wisconsin Center District, had no solid plan in place at the time, though it has since embarked on a $420 million expansion.
Meanwhile, nothing became of the two development proposals for the Phillips and Wisconsin site.
The RFP remains open, but the city has received no recent development proposals for the site, according to DCD. The department said it expects renewed interest in the site given recent development activity in the Westown and West Wisconsin Avenue area. Recent activity, of course, includes the convention center expansion. It also includes The Avenue and its 3rd Street Market Hall, Milwaukee Tool's planned downtown office and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's Bradley Symphony Center.