Milwaukee Art Museum will make offer to buy O’Donnell Park

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:33 am

Milwaukee Art Museum director Dan Keegan on Tuesday told members of the Milwaukee County Board’s Parks, Energy and Environment Committee that the museum plans to submit an offer to purchase the O’Donnell Park parking structure and park, located just west of the museum.

Keegan said the museum hopes to have a deal in place by September to purchase the property from Milwaukee County.

County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and Supervisor Gerry Broderick, chairman of the Parks, Energy and Environment Committee, said that they were encouraged by the Milwaukee Art Museum’s plans.

“This public-to-public partnership is an idea that greatly benefits the public and the Milwaukee Art Museum,” Dimitrijevic said. “I am highly encouraged by the testimony of MAM officials regarding their continued interest and the feasibility of an agreement. The residents of Milwaukee County want to see this proposal move forward to preserve valuable open park space while proposing the kind of visual enhancements that only the MAM can offer.”

Last year the County Board rejected an offer by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. to buy the O’Donnell Park property for $12.7 million. The company had pledged to make more than $6 million in immediate repairs and make additional improvements to the park space.

Some supervisors, including Broderick, opposed selling a park property to a private business. Opponents of the sale said selling the park property would set a bad precedent for the county. Some said the proposed sale price was too low and that the lack of a deed restriction for the southern portion of the property meant that portion of the park lacks adequate protection from future development.

In March, County Board members announced that they would consider selling the O’Donnell Park parking structure and park to the art museum. O’Donnell Park is important to the Art Museum because about 60 percent of its visitors park there and the museum’s pedestrian bridge connects to the park.

Broderick said that linking the Art Museum and the park was a matter of common sense.

“Many people who visit the Milwaukee Art Museum park at the O’Donnell Park garage,” Broderick said. “One can only imagine how the park would look with the vision of the Art Museum fully engaged in creating a beautiful new public space. The park could truly become the gateway to Milwaukee’s lakefront.”

Dimitrijevic said creating a public-to-public partnership would guarantee the public will have access to O’Donnell Park’s open space for years to come.

“This proposed agreement would bring real value to the community by enhancing open space and creating new beauty in the park,” she said. “I am encouraged by the progress made so far. This is a bold and necessary conversation on the lakefront’s future, and these talks are moving forward. Because the Milwaukee Art Museum is our community partner, we look forward to creating a public-to-public partnership that creates a spectacular new vista that will enhance the lakefront for decades.”

The county still owes about $6 million on the 1,332-square-foot space O’Donnell parking structure, which was built in 1993. The structure needs $1.3 million in repairs to its roof. County officials have been debating how to improve and best utilize the facility going forward.

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