Commercial real estate developer Gary Grunau has never been one to mince words.
So, it was not surprising to those who know him well when he laid down a gauntlet to the local business community at the Milwaukee Rotary Club’s recent luncheon with a speech he titled, “Milwaukee: A Changing City.”
The president of Schlitz Park told attendees that this town has a one- or two-year window to decide whether or not it is going forward as a world class city in the 21st Century or it will decay as a rotting third-tier has been.
“We must do it. We must make Milwaukee a great place for young people,” Grunau said, urging business leaders to put their “personal politics aside” and join him in helping to make four key public investments in the community for the next generation:
- Make the bike share program, with 100 to 200 stations and 1,000 bikes available for rental, a reality.
- Invest in modern mass transit, including the proposed streetcar line in downtown Milwaukee.
- Transform the Shops of Grand Avenue into a thriving mixed-use development to bring new commercial life to the west side of the river downtown.
- Invest in the region’s entertainment and cultural assets. Grunau cited the following capital needs: Milwaukee County Parks, $82 million; Milwaukee County Zoo, $85 million; Milwaukee Art Museum, $10 million; Milwaukee Public Museum, $27 million; Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, $25 million; Milwaukee War Memorial, $10 million; and the Villa Terrace, $2 million. Add another $100 million for a new arena and another $200 million for an expansion of the Wisconsin Center, and Grunau is calling for a total of $500 million in public investments.
“That’s how we make Milwaukee a world class city,” Grunau said. “If not, we’re on a slippery slope, probably to Platteville.”