Milwaukee Art Museum takes ownership of O’Donnell Park property

MAM also becomes leaseholder of Betty Brinn, Coast restaurant

Rendering of O'Donnell park after Milwaukee Art Museum assumes ownership.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:12 pm

The Milwaukee Art Museum has taken ownership of the O’Donnell Park property and its multi-level parking garage from Milwaukee County.

Rendering of O’Donnell park after Milwaukee Art Museum assumes ownership.

The property transfer, which also includes several buildings that make up the Art Museum’s lakefront campus in downtown Milwaukee, was first announced in March 2016.

The deal frees the cash-strapped county of $28.8 million in in deferred maintenance and future costs. The county will maintain ownership of the land.

The transfer was stalled for more than a year while officials figured out how to split up responsibilities for the 263,612-square-foot Saarinen Building, or War Memorial Center, and the attached Kahler Building.

The landmark Saarinen Building has been jointly occupied by the Art Museum and War Memorial Center.

On Monday, Milwaukee County announced the Art Museum will assume responsibility for maintenance of the Kahler building, including the recently constructed East Addition, portions of the Saarinen Building that it occupies, and the O’Donnell Park garage, along with the 9-acre O’Donnell Park above the garage.

The Art Museum will also become the leaseholder of the Betty Brinn Children’s museum and Coast restaurant, located in the Miller Pavilion within the park.

The Milwaukee County War Memorial will assume responsibility for maintaining the portions of the Saarinen Building that it occupies.

“This is a good deal for taxpayers and promotes the use and enjoyment of Milwaukee County’s lakefront property for the benefit of the public,” said County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, Sr.

Plans to sell the O’Donnell Park property to the art museum emerged after a proposal to sell the O’Donnell parking structure to Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance was rejected by the County Board in late 2014.

Once the deal is complete, the art museum is planning aesthetic improvements to the public park area, which will be finalized once designs for other lakefront projects are complete, including the Lakefront Gateway, The Couture apartment tower, and a footbridge over Michigan Street connecting The Couture and O’Donnell Park.

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