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Rocky Marcoux is retiring as Milwaukee’s commissioner of the Department of City Development after 16 years in the role. Marcoux, 62, has worked for the city since 1986. While he led DCD, the city saw development successes in its downtown, East Side, the Menomonee Valley, Third Ward and Walker’s Point, but faced – and continues to face – challenges in some redevelopment initiatives including Century City and the former Northridge Mall site. BizTimes reporter Alex Zank recently caught up with Marcoux about his time as commissioner and his outlook for the city.
Why and when did you decide to step down?
“I had given it strong consideration when my wife last year … retired in December. I let the mayor know I was interested in retiring right after the (spring) election. I’m the longest serving DCD commissioner in the city’s history. Sixteen years is a very long time to do this job.”
You were DCD commissioner through the Great Recession, downtown building boom and now the coronavirus pandemic. What was it like navigating that?
“That comes with the job. Situations are going to change and are all challenges. I think the city’s fared well. Obviously, we have a lot of challenges in front of us. There are a lot of racial issues that need to be resolved in this city. I think on the development side, we definitely want to see more development in the neighborhoods. But I don’t think the (Mayor Tom) Barrett administration has been given enough credit for the amount of development that actually has occurred in the neighborhoods.
Where do you see the city now?
“I think downtown does get a lot of headlines because the projects tend to be larger and they involve a lot more hours (to accomplish). But the downtown has doubled in value since 2004. That’s unprecedented, it’s amazing. … If you look at the number of housing units that have been built citywide, it’s a pretty impressive number. Certainly (there are) a lot of units downtown. Counting the ones under construction right now, there’s 12,344 units that have been built downtown. And then an additional 7,840 multi-family units that have been built outside of downtown in the neighborhoods as well as 1,548 single-family or duplex dwellings.”
What have been the city’s biggest achievements during your tenure?
“Certainly, (I’m) very proud of the work that’s taken place in the Menomonee Valley. I think that’s critical, and that’s been a great public-private partnership. It’s been led by the Menomonee Valley Partners, and we’re on that board.
“The Northwestern Mutual Tower was a huge accomplishment. It’s something I’m proud of, having played a role in that, but I think what it did is it sent a measure of confidence to every other business in downtown Milwaukee.”
What are some of its biggest remaining challenges?
“I think Century City is both an achievement as well as a challenge. It’s an achievement in that it took 150 acres in one of the most run-down areas in the city of Milwaukee, a blighted area in the city, and we aggressively went in there, purchased it, remediated the property in terms of environmental and tore down those buildings and put the footprint in for the business park. “Century City is a success in that way. It won’t truly be a full success until we fill every square inch of that with manufacturing and others that are providing family supporting jobs for the people who live around Century City. … Eventually, it will fill up. And I’m confident of that because we have provided the infrastructure for it.”