UWM Freshwater School a No Go on the Pieces of Eight Site
The UWM Real Estate Foundation is withdrawing its proposal to use the former Pieces of Eight restaurant site on Milwaukee’s lakefront as alocation for the headquarters for the newly created University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. David Gilbert, President of the UWM Foundation, announced that rather than pursuing the Pieces of Eight site, the Real Estate Foundation would begin a search for other suitable locations in the region that could meet the needs of UWM and its water industry partners. “Transforming Southeastern Wisconsin into the water technology capital of the world is an initiative that has the potential to unite this region in what could be the largest economic development initiative we have ever seen. We cannot risk the success of this initiative over siting issues,” Gilbert said.
Assisting UWM in the site search will be community and water industry leaders including Julia Taylor, President of the Greater Milwaukee Committee and Richard Meeusen, CEO of Badger Meter.
UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago said he fully supported the decision to explore new options for housing the headquarters for the university’s School of Freshwater Sciences, the first school of its kind in the United States. According to Santiago, the university is committed to building the broadest public support possible for the Freshwater Sciences program. “While there is near unanimous support for expanding our region’s investment in freshwater research, the Pieces of Eight site was limiting in terms of space and the university’s control over the design of the facility. It has become clear that the proposal to showcase freshwater research and industries at the Pieces of Eight site could end up being divisive. Too much is at stake for us to risk losing the momentum we have established for UWM’s Growth Agenda and for making Southeast Wisconsin the world headquarters for freshwater research and related industrial development”.
Meeusen, who is co-chair of the Milwaukee 7 Water Council, agreed. “Although many, many people endorsed the idea of building a new freshwater facility at the Pieces of Eight site, a prolonged fight over that location is not in the best interests of our region. We should be united in our efforts to capitalize on the tremendous advantage we enjoy with our freshwater resources and the businesses built around those resources”.
The process of identifying potential locations for UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences will begin immediately.
For those who said this was a done deal, this decision by the UWM Real Estate Foundation is a clear indicator that rational debate gets you much further than ranting without all the facts. A more civil and well-informed public debate on issues from opponents in the future would be welcome.
To UWM, godspeed in finding an iconic home for a school too important to fail.