DNR ruling could clear way for new downtown tower

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced today it has determined that the parcel of land on which the Milwaukee Transit Center is located does not fall under the state’s Public Trust Doctrine, clearing the way for a developer to proceed with the construction of a new 44-story residential and hotel tower in downtown Milwaukee.

At the request of the Milwaukee-based Preserve our Parks organization, the DNR reviewed the parcel of land to determine if the site is subject to the Public Trust Doctrine. At issue was whether the land was at one time part of the Lake Michigan lakebed and would therefore fall under Public Trust Doctrine which requires the state to intervene to protect public rights in the use of Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers.
The site, located southwest of Lincoln Memorial Drive and Michigan Street near the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee, is currently used as a bus transfer and bus storage facility.
“The department has extensively reviewed the history of this piece of land,” said DNR regional director Eric Nitschke. “DNR staff consulted historical maps and data, as well as information provided by the Preserve Our Parks organization and Milwaukee County. After completing our review, the department concluded that the parcel will not be subject to the Public Trust Doctrine.”
The DNR opinion could help clear the way for Barrett Visionary Development’s proposed 44-story, $125 million Couture development for the site. The Couture would have a 180-room hotel, 179 upscale apartments and 40,000 square feet of retail space.
County officials declared that the transit center that was not the highest and best use of the property and invited developers to submit development proposals for the site. Barrett’s Couture project was selected from a group of four proposals.
However, members of the parks advocacy group Preserve Our Parks complained to the DNR that most of the site was originally in Lake Michigan and was later filled in.

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