New downtown plan proposes redevelopment of bus transit center site

A proposal to relocate the Milwaukee County Transit System’s downtown bus transit center from its current location near the lakefront to a site near the Intermodal Station so that the bus transit center site can be redeveloped is a key recommendation in the new downtown Milwaukee master plan, which will be unveiled today.
The proposal is just one of several recommendations in the new downtown master plan, which city officials will unveil today during an open house at City Hall, 200 E. Wells St., from 4-7 p.m. Short presentations about the downtown plan will be made at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
The new downtown plan is an update of the original plan created in 1999. Several of the catalytic projects from the 1999 plan have been completed, or partially completed, including: the Milwaukee Public Market, Pabst brewery re-development, Wisconsin Avenue streetscaping, riverwalk expansion, Park East freeway replacement, two-way street conversions and renovation of the train station.
One of the most noteworthy recommendations in the new downtown master plan calls for the relocation of the Milwaukee County Transit Systems downtown bus transit center from its current location at the southwest corner of East Michigan Street and North Lincoln Memorial Drive to a site near the Intermodal Station, which is located at 433 W. Saint Paul Ave.
The new downtown plan recommends that the downtown bus transit center site should be redeveloped, “vertically above the transit center site with a single or mix of uses with a public plaza or public wintergarden occupying the ground floor and terracing down to Lincoln Memorial Drive.”
A similar development should be encouraged for the southern portion of the O’Donnell Park parking structure, which is located on the block immediately to the north of the bus transit center site. Last week a large concrete slab fell off the parking structure, killing a 15-year-old boy and injuring two others.
Redeveloping the Downtown Transit Center and O’Donnell Park sites could improve the downtown’s connection to the lakefront, the new downtown plan states.
“The O’Donnell Park garage could be improved with modifications to the south of the existing structure, whereas the Downtown Transit Center would need significant changes or complete removal to improve this negative pedestrian condition at such a premier site,” the plan states. “If Milwaukee wishes to elevate itself and its image into a more favorable and competitive level in terms of place-making and overall urban design, a better connected, pedestrian friendly lakefront area needs to be realized and improved upon from its current design; good and functional, yes, but still somewhat under-utilized. In short, Milwaukee’s lakefront is well-developed and successful but the pieces are in place to make it truly grand.”
Other recommendations in the downtown plan include:
– If a multi-purpose venue is built to replace the Bradley Center it should be build somewhere between McKinley Avenue and Kilbourn Avenue and between 4th Street and 6th Street.
– The architecture of a new arena should avoid large blank walls and dark facades that close the facility off from its surroundings.
– Redesign the Lake Interchange (where I-794 turns near Lincoln Memorial Drive and Clybourn Street) to remove the barrier between the area around the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Third Ward. “Consider the descending leg of the Hoan Bridge to meet a descending I-794 expressway at an at-grade point to best achieve this connection and at the same time create a dramatic gateway into the lakefront, much like the 6th Street viaduct bridge suspensions signal an entrance to the Menomonee Valley and Milwaukee’s near south side,” the plan states.
– Redevelop the U.S. Postal Service facility on St. Paul Avenue with uses that complement the Intermodal Station such as multi-story, mixed-use development including office, residential, hotel, retail, entertainment and parking. The downtown bus transit center relocation could also be integrated into the site.
– The vacant site north of St. Paul Avenue between 5th Street and 6th Street is best suited for a multi-story building supporting the Intermodal State with active ground floor uses such as a restaurant or stores. The site could also include the re-located downtown bus transit center.
– Redevelop the vacant site at 4th Street and Wisconsin Avenue with a hotel, residential or large scale retail uses.
– Consider establishing the southern portion of the 4th Street and Wisconsin Avenue parcel as part of a transit oriented neighborhood focused around Zeidler Square and the Intermodal Station.
– Establish a program for more aggressive retail storefront improvements in a focused area along Wisconsin Avenue between 4th and Milwaukee Streets.
– Strengthen the connections between downtown and Third Ward by making improvements to Broadway.
– Encourage redevelopment of the Milwaukee Athletic Club parking garage site at Milwaukee and Wells streets.
– Build a pedestrian bridge to connect the Harley-Davidson Museum and the future University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Science building with the Intermodal Station.
– Connect Kilbourn Avenue to 7th Street (James Lovell Street) following the existing grade.
– Vacant lot southeast of Michigan Street and 8th Street could be the catalyst for a new library district neighborhood.
– Encourage additional buildings along the Milwaukee River at Schlitz Park.
– To the west of the Milwaukee River, the Park East corridor should consist primarily of higher density, multi-story residential uses. Hotels and accessory retail uses would also be acceptable.
– To the east of the Milwaukee River, the Park East corridor should consist primarily of office and residential with supporting retail or entertainment.
– Major destination retail venues should be avoided in the Park East area and instead should be directed toward the center of downtown, such as the vacant lot at 4th Street and Wisconsin Avenue.
– Discourage future industrial, warehousing and storage uses in the Haymarket area.
– An open-air bier garten should be considered at Pere Marquette Park during warm weather months.
The downtown plan also lists several catalytic projects for downtown that city officials should work to accomplish:
– A retail or leisure-oriented mixed-use complex at Broadway and Michigan Streets to improve the connection between downtown and the Third Ward.
– A lakefront cultural park and gateway facilitated by a reconfigured lakefront traffic pattern.
– Establish Station Plaza incorporating an expanded Intermodal Station and links a new streetcar network with intercity rail and intra-region bus services.
– Encourage the creation of Pere Marquette Square, a mixed-use complex focusing upon the Journal Sentinel block and Pere Marquette Park with extensions along 4th Street and Kilbourn Ave.
– Extend Kilbroun Avenue to create a two-block development site on the easternmost portion of MacArthur Square.
– Improvement of Wisconsin Avenue.
– Downtown streetcar system.
– Encourage the creation of Haymarket Square, a central place for a mixed-use neighborhood of incubator businesses, live/work housing, low-scale townhouses and six-flat walkup buildings with private yards.

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