Dave Reid

MSOE Parking Garage Proposal Needs Work

By - Jun 14th, 2011 11:38 am
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MSOE Soccer Parking Facility

MSOE Soccer Parking Facility

Talks between M&I, MSOE, and Milwaukee County regarding MSOE’s proposed parking garage in the Park East have dragged on for months, and it is likely because of a new detail that makes a marginal project into a bad project.  Apparently, the deal would be contingent on an additional parking lot for M&I to replace the lot they would sell to MSOE.  This surface parking lot, which would be located across the street from another M&I parking lot along Water St., would essentially lock up a vast section of the Park East land to never see significant development.

This project was marginal from the beginning as it had an assortment of drawbacks.  For example, it is sited incorrectly in that the park would not have allowed it to enhanced future developments.   Another issue was that the 700 car parking garage was not large enough to help other developments offset their parking ‘needs’.  The design shows little inspiration, in that it failed to wrap much of the building with active uses, and failed to capitalize on an opportunity to create a point of focus where the building comes to ground.  Further, the soccer field wasn’t the public park intended by the Park East plan, and it is a real question as to whether this will become a public amenity or a MSOE-only facility.  And now M&I is pushing for control of the land along Water St. to potentially create a new surface parking lot.

Hopefully this part of the deal can be resolved, because in this form this deal has more of a chance of stopping any development, rather than encouraging any development as it will turn much of the Park East land into a single-use, low-utilization, low tax-base sea of parking.

One improvement that is being negotiated is for M&I, at least in the short run, to lease their parking slots inside the new garage.  This would be a significant improvement, though apparently M&I is still pushing for long-term control of the lot along Water St., so this may not be a good long-term solution.  As Alderman Nik Kovac explained to me “if the lot west of there eventually becomes a surface lot it is a failure,” but that he hoped a long-term solution could be worked out to resolve the issues.  Better yet, MSOE could build a larger garage that would not only meet the long-term needs of M&I, but also the needs of future developments in the Park East.  A larger garage could be accomplished with some sort of City of Milwaukee involvement and could include an upgraded first-floor design to insure tax revenue and street activation.

Although the project is still questionable as to its long-term benefits to Milwaukee, the deal breaker is if parking garage comes with a surface parking lot, as that would be a failure.

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7 thoughts on “MSOE Parking Garage Proposal Needs Work”

  1. Chris says:

    Thanks Dave for providing great insight into this project. It’s too bad the JS is too lazy to dig deeper — which in turn allows their open sewer talkback section to flow with speculation that the City is somehow the bad guy here.

    The project disappoints on so many levels. Though I could get behind it if somehow they provided enough spaces to offset future parking needs and ringed the base (on all sides) with street level commercial space. And obviously the surface parking for M&I needs to go. But until that happens, this mentality of “something is better than nothing” just doesn’t hold water. The City needs to hold developers accountable to delivering buildings that contribute to the public realm.

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Chris Yeah and I’m sure I missed on some of the issues as well… But at the very minimal least if this thing goes forward please no attached surface parking lot, that is just poor.

  3. cgleiss says:

    Unlike so many, I would prefer to see nothing than see the wrong thing built. If this project isn’t a catalyst for new development (it isn’t), if it doesn’t ensure that the surrounding environs are more valuable (it doesn’t) and doesn’t result in an active pedestrian realm on all sides (it also doesn’t), then it is a failure and is the wrong fit. The wrong step now to force an absurd underutilization of land in the form of a parking garage with a green roof will hamstring future Park East development for a lot longer than a vacant lot or existing surface parking lot. Lets keep in mind a 25 or 30 year vision and not the immediate future. Downtown Milwaukee and the neighborhoods that the Park East redevelopment will connect are too valuable for marginal land uses in between.

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @cgleiss I know, I’m with you I just want to make it clear I think the addition of a surface lot to what is really a parking garage makes a bad deal unfathomable.

  5. Jason Wittek says:

    Strong points all around Dave. Especially about its inability to capture more parking for the area in one garage if need be, which could serve as a catalyst for further development.

    Also, the green space/park looks to be more of a token space they don’t know what to do with because of the irregular shape of the lot. Could this be green washing? Is there a reason a person would want to be in that public space. I’m not sure residents of the North End are going to cross the Water street to sit in the park next to the parking garage. Forget the park and save that parcel for future dorms or sell it for future development of retail on Water Street. I just don’t think that park helps Water Street. It would be great to make the walk from Brady Street down to the traditional Water Street district more activated and inviting!

  6. Dave Reid says:

    @Jason, Right that is my feeling on the park as well. Really the park should be more like where the parking garage is, then you’d ring a public park with development and it would be a great amenity…

  7. Annie says:

    MSOE already locks up considerable land in the downtown area with their numerous small and larger surface parking lots adjacent to many of their buildings. Is MSOE planning to use this parking garage in place of the existing surface lots, or in addition?

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