Deal reached over Fourth Street plaza for Bucks arena

City will lease part of the street to Wisconsin Center District

A rendering of the planned new Milwaukee Bucks arena and live block area.

Officials with the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin Center District and the Milwaukee Bucks recently cut a deal that will allow the city to retain ownership of Fourth Street but let the team move forward with plans to build its Live Block plaza.

Rendering of the Bucks arena and live block area. Officials recently cut a deal in which the city will lease a portion of Fourth Street to the Wisconsin Center District, which will allow development of the plaza to move forward.
Rendering of the planned new Bucks arena and live block area. Officials recently cut a deal in which the city will lease a portion of Fourth Street to the Wisconsin Center District, which will allow development of the plaza to move forward.

Alderman Robert Bauman said city officials and the Bucks met privately on Dec. 22 and agreed to a deal in which the city would lease a portion of the street, adjacent to the arena, to the Wisconsin Center District. Under the deal, that portion of Fourth Street will be closed to vehicular traffic, but open to pedestrians and mass transit. The deal will allow development of the plaza to move forward.

The district will help oversee the construction of a new downtown arena for the Bucks and will also manage the facility.

Previously, Bauman had objected to the Bucks’ request to close off a portion of Fourth Street to create the Live Block plaza. He wanted the city to maintain control of the street and said the Bucks should only get to close the street during events at the arena or Live Block. But Bucks officials said they needed the street closure to create a pedestrian-friendly experience for the Live Block, which will be a public plaza flanked by bars, restaurants and retail.

“I think it’s a fair compromise, it gives the Bucks an opportunity to do all of these great things on the plaza, which I am still skeptical about, and we retain the street,” Bauman said.

Russell Staerkel, president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Center District said Wednesday he was not aware of the agreement.

Bucks representatives and Scott Neitzel, district chairman, could not be reached for comment.

The arena is planned for a 25-acre site just north of the BMO Harris Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee. The arena will anchor a mixed-use district that the Bucks owners plan to develop. The first phase of that development will include the new 690,000-square-foot, six-story arena, a practice facility for the team and a Live Block public plaza on Fourth Street between Highland and Juneau avenues. Construction for the first phase of the district, including the arena itself, is expected to begin this year.

Phase two of the arena district development, tentatively slated for 2018 to 2022, includes razing the existing Bradley Center and preparing it for future development. Phase three, which is expected to take place from 2023 to 2027, will consist of mixed-use development including apartments and retail.

The current and past owners of the Bucks will pay for half of the cost of the $500 million arena and the other half of the cost will be from a combination of state, city, county and Wisconsin Center District funds.

Bauman said a development agreement had to be signed between the city and the Bucks before the end of the year to lock in TIF financing.

That agreement has now been signed, although it will still be several months before the city sees definitive renderings and design plans for the Live Block plaza, Bauman said.

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