Jeramey Jannene

Could Robert Ruvin Have Saved RiverSplash?

By - Jun 3rd, 2008 05:44 pm
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While it certainly sounds ridiculous, I think it’s a distinct possibility that Robert Ruvin could have prevented most, if not all of the trouble stemming from the Saturday night fiasco at RiverSplash on Old World Third Street and Water Street.

First let’s step back to the origination of the problem. What I witnessed on Friday night first hand (and what everything I read seems to agree happened Saturday) was that teenagers began to “cruise” (drive in loops, while hanging their heads out of the window, yelling, and all sorts of other stuff that the DMV would advise against) up and down Old World Third Street from Juneau Avenue to McKinley Avenue. They would frequently block these intersections and the whole area had a general sense of lawlessness to it (I biked through around midnight on Friday, I’ll vouch for the lawlessness).

The general lawlessness of cruising spilled over into the area near the intersection of Highland and Old World Third Street, where the person ended up getting shot in the foot. I witnessed this first hand Friday night, and all indications point to that same situation occurring Saturday night. The illegal activity (cruising is against the law in Milwaukee) outside of the festival, fueled insanity within the festival.

This behavior was further enabled by the vacant Park East land where the Sydney Hih building and Gipfel Brewery sit (and Ruvin is to develop upon). In fact on a night where parking is scarce, very few cars made use of the Park East land to park in, and the few that did were certainly illegal.

If Ruvin was able to start construction on that lot already, none of this probably would have happened. The north end of the festival would have been calmer because cruising wouldn’t have taken place near the festival because the lot would have been blocked off. Why wouldn’t cruising have taken place? The cruisers were using the largely empty lot to turn around.

Now don’t misinterpret my article as saying Ruvin was at fault for the fiasco, he is certainly not. But if Ruvin had fenced off the entire block (Milwaukee County may have to do this since he technically hasn’t executed his option to purchase), it would have made the corridor along Old World Third Street a little less friendly for cruising. It also might have encouraged law enforcement to stand at that end of the festival (even though it is technically outside the edge of the festival) and discourage and ticket cruisers.

It would be hard to convince Scott Walker and company to spend money when they’re not getting any in return though, so why not for the night turn it into a parking lot? Nearby parking garage owners wouldn’t be opposed to this, since they’re owned by the city. The city and county could earn some money to help pay for police officers for the event by charging for parking. Suburbanites in town for the festival would have paid for the convenience, they don’t seem to enjoy the concept of street parking.

RiverSplash will certainly continue next year. If I was in charge (paging Robert Bauman) I would do the following things.

1. Install lights above buildings to illuminate the streets (this is done in Madison during Halloween on State Street and makes it feel safer and more welcoming late at night). Cars usually provide this, but are clearly absent during RiverSplash.

2. Patrol the areas outside of RiverSplash, I felt that there were plenty of officers inside the festival, but not enough on the fringes.

3. Institute a bottle fee at bars so that drinkers pay a deposit and earn it back for their bottles. This should reduce garbage and eliminate the urge to turn bottles into frisbees and footballs. When I studied in Kassel, Germany they made good use of this policy during festivals and it seemed to keep garbage bins largely empty.

4. Look at traffic flows, especially around Highland Avenue Pedestrian Bridge. The area seems to clog up for fairly obvious reasons (it’s narrow and the street is vertically separated from the curb at one point ). See if any barriers can be put in place to encourage movement.

I look forward to attending RiverSplash next year and hopefully seeing the construction progress at Gatehouse Capitol and Ruvin Development’s Hotel Palomar.

Categories: Real Estate

2 thoughts on “Could Robert Ruvin Have Saved RiverSplash?”

  1. I had thought it would have helped if some of the events took place on the vacant Park East land to spread out the crowd. I know it is impracticable. I also feel that if and when the Palomar gets built, the residents and hotel visitors might not want this sort of revel outside their doors. Marcus threw Bastille Days out of Jefferson Street years ago for this reason.
    Another problem of the fest is that a river tends to divide rather than unite. It didn’t help that the Kilbourn Bridge is out. Talk will focus on security and police. What is needed is something along the Street Ambassador level — uniformed (t-shirt) folks in the crowd constantly tending to trash. Once the trash cans start overflowing, all bets are off. I noted this with alarm last year.

  2. Derek says:

    Another suggestion I’ve heard is stop issuing extension of premises permits to bars so they can serve hard alcohol on the street. I wasn’t there but have heard the level of drunkenness was quite high, which is eased through dispensation of spirits in NOLA style containers that people can walk around with.

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