City Hall Is Worth Every Penny
Mike Nichols has an article in the Journal Sentinel lambasting politicians for their failings in properly estimating the cost of projects. Nichols gives me the feeling that he’s upset at Mayor Barrett for the expense of the City Hall and the coming need for a lift of the building (covered earlier on this site).
Nichols acts as if City Hall is some giant sink hole that we as Milwaukeeans throw all our money into for no return and that is not an asset to Milwaukee anymore. He imposes upon me that his feeling is that we should have spent millions years ago to remove the wood pilings underneath and replace them with something else. As if the pilings that have lasted more than 100 years were a bad idea from the start, and that people should have known better. That politicians are continually draining Milwaukee of money to fix this building that’s fundamentally flawed. To paraphrase a recent Barrett quote I saw in the Shepherd Express ” it’s not like we’re putting hot tubs in”. Barrett is simply spending the money it takes to keep one of Milwaukee’s greatest landmarks operating and available for future generations.
Nichols apparently disagrees with that idea..
It’s also a place some were already calling outmoded back in 1954, one that is now dwarfed by surrounding buildings and will continue to suck up money that could have been used on something new and inspiring.There’s at least the possibility that if taxpayers knew a few years ago what they were about to spend, they would have considered another, fully accessible, internationally admired Calatrava instead.
We’ll never know because taxpayers have already made the leap that is now about to carry them all the way into the pilings under the basement. Only, I wouldn’t really call it a leap.
It looks more like, without any real discussion at all, they were given a firm, silent, chicken-hearted push.
If he’s so upset about City Hall and the money being spent, why doesn’t someone run for Mayor that is for a new City Hall? The simple reason is that a new City Hall would have the same cost overruns without the old world charm and history of the current building.
City Hall doesn’t feature the glass casing like many new urban buildings or the massive parking garage that accompanies many of the large buildings in downtown Milwaukee. The building instead is a tribute to what Milwaukee has grown from, while pointing to the sky to demonstrate where Milwaukee is going to.
As each new building rises around City Hall, the value of the distinct look of the building increases. It is not the similarity of urban buildings that makes a downtown special, it is the difference. Just like the Kern Center and Grace Lutheran Church appear in contrast to each other forming a unique city block, buildings like City Hall and 1000 North Water Street find value in their proximity and difference in appearance.
Sure it’s expensive to repair, but it’s worth every penny.