Dave Reid

Rush to Judgement

Whew. A county committee quickly approves a barely-vetted proposal for a new hotel.

By - Sep 26th, 2012 05:52 pm
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Element Hotel Lot

A portion of the proposed Element Hotel lot can be seen just north of the now demolished Sydney Hih

The spirit of the meeting was captured by Sup. Patricia Jursik’s warning to her fellow board members: “There’s going to be money left on the table, if we don’t get moving on this because of the bonds.”

And sure enough, Jursik and fellow members of the Milwaukee County Economic and Community Development Committee rushed through a resolution that directs the Director of Economic Development to begin negotiating a land sale in the Park East. The committee met in a special meeting today, and Jursik pushed for quick action because of the possibility of the development using Midwest Disaster Relief Bonds to finance the project: the deadline for using them is Dec 31st, 2012.

The development would occur on a 0.8 acre parcel located on the west side of Old World Third Street between W. Juneau Ave. and W. McKinley Ave.,  just north of the former Sydney Hih site. A group called MRH West LLC, an affiliate of Milwaukee River Hotel LLC, which was the developer and owner of the Aloft Hotel, plans to build a 110 room, possibly LEED-certified extended-stay hotel under the Element Hotel flag.

When asked about his knowledge of the project, Brian Taffora, the county’s Director of Economic Development, responded, “I know about as much as you know about this…the project hasn’t been vetted yet.”  Taffora added, “I haven’t been able to talk to the city yet,” meaning there could still be zoning issues and the like that might arise. Then there’s the question of whether County Executive Chris Abele will support the project, but Taffora said he thought Abele would.

Doug Nysse, the project architect and Principal with Kahler Slater, suggested the building would be “5 or 6 floors probably,” and that “potentially there is space on the first floor for retail.”   According to Nysse the site arrangement would probably be similar to the Aloft, and would have two open spaces on each side of the building, due to a Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District easement that bars development of a portion of the site.  No renderings were presented during the meeting for committee members to take into consideration (though images of typical Element Hotel designs can be found here).

There was some discussion regarding the process and the fact that there was no current RFP for this proposal. Sup. Michael Mayo weighed in, saying, “I do prefer RFP,” but Sup. Jursik shot down that line of discussion:  ”We have done the RFP,” she noted, but “at this point it hasn’t been fruitful.”

The resolution was unanimously approved, and will now go before the full county board.

Categories: Development News

8 thoughts on “Rush to Judgement”

  1. Garrick Jannene says:

    Element Hotel has a cookie cutter suburban style hotel that looks like this: http://icvbmarketing.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/dsc_00861.jpg

    But they do try to do things differently in more urban areas it seems, here’s their hotel in Midtown Omaha. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if this is exactly what they want to build: http://www.hba1.com/projects/sustain/element/element_1.html

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Garrick I hope you’re right because the suburban design is awful.

  3. Jeff Jordan says:

    I agree on the design for the downtown model, but I always get nervous when we have to “rush” because of money considerations.

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @Jeff Yup, I agree it can definitely be concerning.

  5. David Baker says:

    Was this being in the works the reason for the sudden rush to demolish the Sidney Hih?

  6. Dave Reid says:

    @David You know I don’t think so. As it sound fairly clear from the meeting that the county had not even reached out to the city about the project yet…

  7. Chris says:

    Beyond what will likely be a very uninspiring design, you have to wonder if somehow a large surface parking lot shared between the A-Loft and the Element is in the works? This would be a lose-lose situation for what should be a dense, vibrant, mixed-use area.

  8. Stacy Moss says:

    Practice makes perfect. Isn’t Doug Nysse the same guy who is doing the infamous Marriott hotel on the east side of Downtown. Forget about “design”, he is project manager. These hotels come prepackaged (branded!). Forget about some sort of public consideration. We are desperate, anything will do, which is not what ‘downtown’ used to be, or is supposed to be for that matter.

    Would anyone be inclined to build something nice next to an Elemental hotel?

    I remember when my Dad went to work downtown. There were all of these seemingly “important” people doing business, all dressed up in suits and wore cool hats. It used to be if you had a office in downtown you could live in Fox Point.

    Now the center of Milwaukee will be full people cleaning hotel rooms instead of making big deals. Where are these people going to live? How are they going to send their kids to college? Where is the indigenous energy of a real downtown?

    Reminds me of opening lines of Yeats The Second Coming…

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

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