Summerfest may buy former Charter Wire building

Milwaukee World Festival Inc. is in the process of acquiring the 140,000-square-foot former Charter Wire building, located at 608-627 E. Polk St. in the city’s Historic Third Ward and near the Summerfest grounds on the lakefront.

“We have taken initial steps in the process to acquire property,” said Summerfest spokesman John Boler. “However, Milwaukee World Festival Inc.’s board of directors will have to vote to approve the purchase, prior to us moving forward.”

The building is owned by Northbrook, Ill.-based Garland Brothers Joint Venture. A representative for the group declined to comment. The building was vacated last year when Charter Wire moved to a new building in the Menomonee Valley near Miller Park.

Boler declined to comment on what Summerfest would use the property for.

The property is subject to the Third Ward’s neighborhood plan, which would not allow the building to be replaced with a surface parking lot. However, vehicles could be parked inside the building.

Ald. Robert Bauman said Milwaukee World Festival officials have approached city officials about plans to tear down the former Charter Wire building and replace it with a 400-space surface parking lot. Bauman said he strongly opposes that idea. A surface parking lot would generate significantly less tax revenue than the existing building, he said.

“If the business community and city leaders think the highest and best use for that large piece of property, located near the lakefront in the city’s most dynamic neighborhood, is surface parking, then we’ve got serious problems,” Bauman said.

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