Preserve Our Parks finally throws in the towel

The announcement came in a low key email sent recently to the news media.

“Preserve Our Parks will not appeal Judge (Christopher Foley’s) decision allowing The Couture development at the Transit Center site.”

And just like that, a three-year legal battle over the development rights of the site near the lakefront was finally over.
That means Barrett Lo Visionary Development’s plans to demolish the Downtown Transit Center and replace it with a 44-story building with 302 luxury apartments, 50,000 square feet of retail space, public parking, transit connections and numerous public amenities can finally move forward.
This is a big deal for Milwaukee. The $122 million Couture development will create numerous construction jobs and provide a much needed boost to the city’s tax base. The Couture will offer a visual enhancement to the city’s skyline and it will provide transportation connections with the streetcar, buses, Bublr bikes, parking and walkways.
The Couture is also important because pedestrian bridges will connect it to the planned Lakefront Gateway Plaza and O’Donnell Park, providing improved pedestrian access between the downtown central business district and the lakefront.
Also, Foley’s decision should once and for all settle the historic shoreline issue and establish where private development can and cannot occur near the lakefront. That not only affects the site for The Couture, but it also affects the site to the south where Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc. is considering plans to build an office tower. The global diversified technology and industrial firm has been tight-lipped about its plans, but sources indicate the company could build the tallest office building in the state, perhaps 52 stories tall, on the site. That would be a huge deal for Milwaukee; probably an even bigger deal than the $500 million arena project.
Parks preservation is a laudable goal. And the public trust doctrine is important. But the purpose of the public trust doctrine is to make sure that the public always has access to lakes, rivers and streams in the state. The public trust doctrine is not intended to block private development on a site across the street from a lakefront park.
The Couture poses no threat to lakefront access. In fact, its pedestrian bridges will improve lakefront access. The park on top of the Downtown Transit Center site is a patch of grass that is almost never used by the public. It’s not worth preserving.
By fighting this pointless battle, Preserve Our Parks hurt its image and its mission. Hopefully, the group picks battles worth fighting from now on.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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