One year later, Milwaukee Art Museum still hasn’t closed on O’Donnell Park property

Joint use of Saarinen Building holding up deal

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

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:13 pm

In March 2016, the Milwaukee Art Museum announced it had made an offer to purchase 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.
A rendering of O’Donnell Park after the Milwaukee Art Museum assumes ownership.

The deal would free the cash-strapped county of $28.8 million in liabilities on the O’Donnel Park property, while transferring ownership of the park to the museum.

Renderings showing urban sculptures along new pathways throughout the upper plaza of O’Donnell Park at the east end of Wisconsin Avenue were revealed.

Thirteen months later, the deal still has not closed.

The holdup has been the 263,612-square-foot Saarinen Building, or War Memorial Center, and Kahler Building, which was part of the museum’s new east addition.

Today, the landmark building is jointly occupied by the Art Museum and the War Memorial, and both entities are in the process of figuring out where their artifacts will go and making sure they get it right the first time, said Melissa Baldauff, spokesperson for Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

“Everyone is still working together and we are still on the same page,” Baldauff said. “We are hoping by this summer to have the deal finished.”

Once the deal is complete, the 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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