Park East corridor underground site issues could cost $10 million to remedy

The cost to relocate a storm sewer lateral and remove former freeway footings in the Park East corridor could reach $10 million, according to a Milwaukee County report.

The owners of the Milwaukee Bucks want to buy 9.8 acres of vacant land in the Park East corridor from the county. The Bucks owners want to build $400 million of mixed-use development on the site, near a proposed new downtown arena. The Park East land is located on about four blocks between McKinley Avenue, Old World Third Street, Juneau Avenue and Winnebago Street. The site has been vacant since the Park East freeway was torn down about 12 years ago.

The Bucks have offered to purchase the Park East land “as is” for $1. An appraisal firm hired by the county valued the site at $8.8 million.

Some have objected to the county selling the land for just $1. But some county officials say the $1 price is justified because the Bucks ownership will assume all site remediation costs.

In a report this week to the Milwaukee County Board’s Economic Development Committee, Economic Development Director James Tarantino said it will cost between $3.45 million and $7 million to relocate a storm sewer pipe, which is owned by the state and the city, that runs through the length of the site. A 2,500-foot long, 84-inch diameter replacement sewer line could be built along Winnebago Street and Juneau Avenue, Tarantino’s report states.

The sewer pipe cannot be built on because it must be accessible, said Teig Whaley-Smith, director of administrative services for the county. It is more efficient to move the sewer pipe than it is to build around it, he said.

The Park East blocks also have 153 concrete footings underground from the former freeway. It will cost about $3.1 million to remove all of those footings, Tarantino said.

By combining the sewer line relocation and the footing removal costs, the total cost for underground remediation of the Park East blocks that the Bucks owners want to buy is estimated at $6.5 million to $10 million. By purchasing the site “as is” the Bucks ownership would assume responsibility for those costs.

Last year the county established a new request for proposal process for the Park East corridor land west of the Milwaukee River. Only two responses to that RFP were submitted, including the Bucks proposal.

Indianapolis-based Milhaus Development and Milwaukee-based WiRED Properties submitted the other proposal, which called for a $60 million mixed-use development for a 4.85-acre two-block area bounded by North 6th Street, North 4th Street, McKinley Avenue and Juneau Avenue in the Park East corridor.

Milhaus and WiRED also offered to buy the site for $1, but they wanted the underground remediation to be paid for by the city or the county.

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