Lakefront activities

Here's what's up on the lakefront currently:

(See the Lakefront Section of this website for a roundup and map of earlier proposals for intrusive lakefront developments.)

Huge revision of downtown lakefront area proposed

The County Board has approved a basic plan for commercial development of the Downtown Transit Center site next to O’Donnell Park, revision of the I-794 ramps nearby and easier access from Wisconsin Ave. to the Lakefront.

The plan, developed by the Lakefront Development Committee, would convert E. Clybourn St. into a boulevard leading to the lakefront and relocate the entrance and exit ramps to  release land for development that they now occupy. Other possibilities include razing the O’Donnell Park parking structure and terracing the bluff to the lakefront.
Income from parking has raised some opposition to this part of the plan. No cost estimates have been made; a tax plan called an incremental financing district has been proposed to fund the project.

POP endorses the general recommendations, but will keep a sharp eye on how plans progress. We are solidly opposed to any future commercial encroachment on O’Donnell Park itself, as has been proposed by some.

Cell tower rebuffed in lakefront park

A proposed ATT cell-phone tower in Veterans Park on the lakefront apparently has been shot down. A flurry of opposition that Preserve Our Parks helped mobilize convinced the County Parks, Energy and Environment Committee to hold the idea for further study.

POP opposed the 60-foot tower for these main reasons:

  1. It would violate the Public Trust Doctrine that bars all but navigational and recreational development on filled lakebed land.
  2. It was not proved essential or that it needed to be sited in an open park area.
  3. No other bidders were solicited.

Many other points were cited against the proposal.

Downtown Lakefront office building scuttled; Restaurant back in

One of many opponents of an office building proposed on the defunct Pieces of Eight restaurant site, POP help kill the idea. When the slice of downtown lakefront between the Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World was proposed as the site for headquarters of UWM’s new School of Freshwater Sciences and the Milwaukee Water Council, plus offices for other water-related entities, Preserve Our Parks wrote a couple of OpEd pieces for the Journal Sentinel; apprised the City Harbor Commission, which supervises this City-owned property, of the Public Trust doctrine that bars use of that land for commercial purposes; and questioned the wisdom of shoehorning in another large building at that site.

While we strongly support the area-wide effort to make Milwaukee a world powerhouse in freshwater research, we believed this site should be off limits for its headquarters. We offered a green alternative that  would include ponds, native plantings from the time when Native Americans harvested wild rice in the harbor and easy access to a fishing pier for the handicapped.
Ultimately, UWM backed off on the site, saying it had aroused too much controversy. And entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Cudahy, a strong back of the plan, who boiught the restaurant lease for $1 million and offered to donate it for the project, now says he will reopen a restaurant there. Though the lease still has nine years to run, a recent letter from the State Department of Natural Resources, spurred by POP questions about legality of restaurant use of the site, asks the City to assure that any noncompliant use will stop at the end of the lease in January 2018.

So we’ll have to wait and see what happens. At least there won’t be an office building here and, in a decade, POP hopes the site will offer an unobstructed view over Lake Michigan.