FPC Live drops plans for indoor music venue complex near Summerfest grounds

Project could resurface at different location in Milwaukee

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FPC Live, an affiliate of Madison-based Frank Productions, is dropping its plans to develop an indoor live music venue facility on a surface parking lot site west of the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward

In a joint statement issued today along with Summerfest operator Milwaukee World Festival Inc., FPC Live president Charlie Goldstone stated simply that the site near Henry Maier Festival Park was “no longer under consideration” for the proposed development.

However, the statement also indicated that the project could resurface at a different location in Milwaukee.

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“After a thorough process, we have determined that the site available near Henry Maier Festival Park is no longer under consideration for our proposed two-venue development in Milwaukee,” Goldstone said. “We remain committed to developing this state-of-the-art project in Milwaukee, preparing the city for the next several decades of live entertainment, and we will announce more details in due time.”

FPC had planned to lease the site, just south of the Summerfest administration building, from Summerfest’s operator Milwaukee World Festival Inc.

The plan had been for a single building with two venues, one with a scalable capacity of up to 800 people and the other with a scalable capacity of up to 4,000.

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The facility was expected to host 135 events annually, including concerts and private functions like weddings and corporate events. Plans for the facility quickly drew opposition as residents living in nearby condo and apartment buildings who said they feared the noise and traffic that an entertainment venue of that scale might produce.

Other concerns raised by project opponents included the potential for venue goers to use up street parking as well as potential negative impact on nearby property values, neighborhood safety and security, and competition with existing downtown area venues and other establishments.

In its statement, Milwaukee World Festival Inc. said simply that the parties had determined for “multiple reasons” not to pursue the project.

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“MWF will continue to focus on its core business of producing Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance, as well as providing our community with a full summer calendar of ethnic and cultural festivals along with special events,” the statement continued. “This also includes an ongoing partnership with FPC to co-promote concerts at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater and BMO Harris Pavilion, continuing to bring blockbuster artists to Milwaukee’s lakefront.”

Friday’s announcement was welcome news for a group of Third Ward residents and business owners who had spoken out about the project since it was announced late last year.

Known as the Friends & Neighbors of the Historic Third Ward – which later became Save the Third Ward – the group is represented by public relations executive Craig Peterson, president and chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based Zigman Joseph PR. Peterson is known for leading a successful effort to derail another major development project, proposed in 2005 at the former Pabst Brewery Complex – now known as The Brewery District.

In an interview with BizTimes Friday morning, Peterson said he believes neighborhood pushback ultimately led to FPC and MWF’s decision to walk away from the project.

“It’s a huge victory for the residents and businesses of the Third Ward, whose condo values and life down in the Third Ward would have been seriously impacted by any music venue down there,” said Peterson. “This allows us to move ahead with what we think is a better vision for that property down there near Summerfest.”

In February, the group released plans drawn up by Milwaukee-based Quorum Architects for the under-developed land surrounding the south end of Henry Maier Festival Park that call for a mix of open green space, public plazas, mixed-use development, and bridge access to the adjacent Lakeshore State Park. The proposed development would transform an area that has long served as surface parking lots for Summerfest and other ethnic festivals. One of those lots was where FPC Live had planned to build its two-venue concert hall, with intentions to use the 1,850 spots across the street for paid event parking.

Peterson said those plans remain on the table, and now, with a newly created 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity dubbed “Third Ward Friends,” the group may have more power to influence future development in the neighborhood.

“The mission is to, for the next several years, advocate for a vision for what the residents and the neighbors and the businesses would like to see in that area,” he said. “It’s probably some of the most beautiful land that’s covered up right now by surface parking lots.”

The group will also focus on fundraising and recruiting large donors to back their vision.

“We’d like to do it with private dollars, but it’s going to be a multi-year effort, not just a flash-in-the-pan idea,” said Peterson.

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