Port Milwaukee seeking development proposals for South Shore Cruise Dock


Port Milwaukee is seeking development proposals and prospective tenants for a 5-acre waterfront site at its South Shore Cruise Dock, just east of the Lake Express High Speed Ferry terminal.

The vacant plot of land is available for recreational, entertainment, tourism, cultural, passenger vessel and public access uses, according to a request for interest issued Monday.

Proposed developments should “co-exist with and take advantage of” the Port’s growing international cruise activity, including the arrival of international cruise giant Viking in 2022.

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All cruise activity to and from Milwaukee has been on hold for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Port Milwaukee is ready for a full return next year, with more than 10,000 passengers expected, said port director Adam Tindall-Schlicht in an earlier interview with BizTimes. That’s way up from 2019’s record setting 3,214 passengers and 10 port calls in Milwaukee. Viking alone is expected to bring more than 8,000 passengers and 20 port calls to Milwaukee during its first Great Lakes cruising season.

According to the Port Milwaukee RFI document, South Shore Cruise Dock development proposals must include some kind of “welcome center” for cruise passengers, described as the “first entry to Milwaukee for thousands of cruise passengers per year.” The South Shore Cruise Dock is one of two existing cruise ship docks along Port Milwaukee’s 470-acre waterfront — the other is the Pier Wisconsin Cruise Dock at Discovery World. South Shore dock has a deeper draft for larger cruise vessels.

Any proposed development at the South Shore Cruise Dock site should be mindful of the neighboring Lake Express High Speed Ferry, which operates two to three daily crossings between Milwaukee and Muskegon, Michigan from May to November annually.

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“More compelling proposals will complement Lake Express service offerings and help to incentivize new passenger utilization of the ferry,” according to the Port Milwaukee document.

The Port is pushing for construction to begin as early as September 1, 2022, but the developer must first sign a long-term lease. The RFI calls for a maximum of 30 years, structured as a 15-year base term lease with options for three, five-year extensions.

Restrictions under the Wisconsin Public Trust Doctrine prevent Port Milwaukee from leasing the site for more than 30 years under the initial agreement. A new lease agreement would be necessary at the end of the 30-year term.

Proposals are due Dec. 17 and selection will take place by Jan. 14.

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