Sequencing of arena district construction questioned by city panel

Timing of Highland Avenue parking structure demolition raises concern

A rendering of the planned new Milwaukee Bucks arena and live block area.

The timeline of the “Live Block” plaza on N. Fourth Street could be delayed if the Milwaukee Bucks and the city can’t resolve parking issues that might arise during the construction of the new arena.

Rendering of the Bucks arena and live block area.
Rendering of the Bucks arena and live block area.

Bucks President Peter Feigin and Greg Uhen, CEO of Eppstein Uhen Architects, presented the sequencing for the arena plan Monday to the Milwaukee Plan Commission. Commissioners met to change the zoning of the arena site and approve the Buck’s General Planned Development documents.

The arena is planned for a 25-acre site just north of the BMO Harris Bradley Center.  The first phase will include the new 690,000-square-foot, six-story arena, a practice facility for the team and a Live Block public plaza on Fourth Street between Highland and Juneau avenues.

The current parking structure on W. Highland Avenue and N. Fourth Street would be demolished before a new structure would be completed – a plan Alderman Robert Bauman called ludicrous.

“This was never part of the debate – I just assumed logic would prevail and they would keep the parking until it was replaced with a new structure,” Bauman said. “Hundreds of city employees park there, not to mention everyone attending the Bucks games.”

Bauman also pointed out the phasing does not include taxable real estate such as residential or commercial structures until several years from now.

Phase two of the project, tentatively slated for 2018 to 2022, includes razing the existing Bradley Center and preparing it for future development. Phase three, which will take place in 2023 to 2027, will be along W. Juneau Avenue and the Milwaukee River and will include apartments and retail.

“We’re going to get an arena as quickly as we can, but just to be clear, there are no public benefits in terms of tax increment until way in the future,” Bauman said.

Ken McNulty, owner of Wisconsin Cheese Mart, 215 W. Highland Ave., and Uber Tap Room, 1048 N. 3rd St., also said he was concerned about the loss of the Highland Avenue parking structure.

McNulty said parking is not an issue for business owners whose businesses operate at night. But said retailers who operate day-time businesses already suffer because there is a lack of parking spaces in the area.

Bucks representatives said delayed the demolition of the Highland Avenue parking structure would change the whole concept of the arena plan and would delay completion of the “Live Block,” which they would prefer to have complete when the arena opens.

“To open the arena without the Live Block is not being able to tell the whole story,” Uhen said.

Plan commission members disagreed, saying the city survived for years with a Bradley Center and no “Live Block.” In the end, however, the group approved the Bucks’ request to change the zoning on the condition the team works with the city to mitigate parking issues.

The next step will be for the Bucks to take the General Planned Development to the city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee, which will likely be in January.

After the meeting, Feigin said he is confident the Bucks and the city would be able to find a compromise.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display