A Possible Solution for the Marriott Proposal?
Last night the Historic Preservation Commission voted to allow Wave Development, LLC to demolish the historic structures located along Milwaukee St. and Wisconsin Ave. to build a new Marriott Hotel. Under the condition that the project would save and restore the buildings’ facades as part of the new development.
While this is not 100% of what the preservationist groups wanted, and not 100% of what Wave Development LLC. wanted, it will allow the historic character of downtown Milwaukee to be preserved, while allowing new development. And yes we’re not sure what our good friends at Historic Milwaukee Inc., feel about this solution, but we think this is a solution that can, and should be, supported.
The buildings in question were not recently designated, someone didn’t designate them to obstruct development or to “put a wrench in the process“, and this process was not sprung on the development team. In fact these buildings have been recognized both locally and nationally since the late 80′s, so some concessions by the developer should have been expected. The development team will have to go back to the drawing board, and this will likely add cost to the project, but we do have preservation laws, much like many cities, for a reason. So, maybe a compromise such as saving the historic fabric along the street is a good compromise.
In addition to saving all or even most of the facades, a couple of other items should be considered before this moves forward. First, the deal should come with a guarantee that no demolition will occur until financing is locked in place, otherwise the possibility of the project falling through once demolition has begun is still a real possibility. Secondly, as MBI Properties LLC. is a property owner involved in this project that also owns other buildings within this historic district, some assurance as to the protection of the buildings they own within the district should be put in place. Because without this insurance in place, the allowing of the almost complete demolition of the building to build the Marriott will act as a precedent, and further encourage the demolition of other buildings within East Side Commercial Historic District.
This compromise will allow Milwaukee to save some history, keep Milwaukee unique, and add jobs. While at the same time Marriott Corporation will get a unique hotel, not a another Anywhere U.S.A. box.