UWM’s plate is full with uncertainties

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is at once juggling several expansion projects that would dramatically reshape the university and have significant impact on the community.
The building projects that UWM officials are considering include:
  • Engineering campus – The university plans to build a science and engineering campus at the County Grounds in Wauwatosa.
  • School of Freshwater Sciences – A proposed School of Freshwater Sciences, which is expected to provide a major boost to the water technology industry in Milwaukee. UWM originally planned to build the school on the site of the former Pieces of Eight restaurant, owned by retired business executive Michael Cudahy, and located on the lakefront. However, those plans fell through and university officials turned their attention toward the Great Lakes WATER Institute at 600 E. Greenfield Ave. That area is run down and is located near huge coal piles near the Port of Milwaukee. Now, UWM officials are considering the Reed Street Yards site, located between the Harley-Davidson Museum in the Menomonee Valley and the Iron Horse Hotel. City of Milwaukee officials want to see a water technology business park developed on the Reed Street Yards site, and the School of Freshwater Sciences could provide an anchor for that development.
  • School of Public Health – Zilber Ltd. founder Joseph Zilber donated $10 million to UWM for the school. Zilber made the gift on condition that the school be built downtown and is negotiating with UWM to have it located in his redevelopment of the former Pabst brewery complex. Some UWM faculty members want the school to be located at the university’s main east side campus instead, but that could jeopardize the Zilber gift.
  • Columbia Hospital – Columbia St. Mary’s will close its hospital near UWM and consolidate its operations at an expanded complex at North and Prospect avenues. UWM is considering plans to purchase the Columbia Hospital, which could be used for a variety of purposes.
  • Integrated Research Complex – UWM plans to build a five- to six-story, 150,000 to 200,000-square-foot integrated research building at the northwest corner of Kenwood Boulevard and Maryland Avenue at the school’s main east side campus.
  • North Avenue residence hall – Milwaukee-based Mandel Group Inc. is building a new 700-student dormitory at the northwest corner of East North Avenue and North Cambridge Avenue for UWM. The site is located on the opposite side of the Milwaukee River from UWM’s the 475-student RiverView Residence Hall.
  • Basketball arena – UWM officials are considering plans to bring the UWM men’s basketball games back to campus by either expanding the Klotsche Center, or by building a new 6,000 to 8,000 seat arena. The UWM men’s basketball team currently plays at the U.S. Cellular Arena in downtown Milwaukee, but struggles to attract more than 3,000 fans per game. Some think an on campus arena would attract more students and more excitement for the program. UWM’s Student Association approved a $25 per student per semester fee that could be used to help pay for an arena project.
However, the arena project is only in preliminary discussions according to a letter, obtained by BizTimes Milwaukee, sent by UWM athletic director George Koonce to a UWM basketball booster.
“We have not formulated a definitive plan,” Koonce’s letter states. “Some media reports, blog postings and sports talk shows have suggested that steps are already being taken to build a new facility or renovate the Klotsche Center. These statements are incorrect.”
With so many building projects in the works, UWM may also soon see a change at the top of its administration. Last year, UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago applied to be the chancellor of Florida International University of Miami. He was a finalist for the job, but then dropped out of the running.
However, Santiago is still looking for a new job, according to Milwaukee Magazine, which recently reported that Santiago applied for the open job of chancellor at the University of Hawaii and was turned down.

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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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