Jeramey Jannene

The Park East Park? Absolutely Not

By - Jan 13th, 2009 05:22 pm

In response to the announcement of the failing of The Residences of Palomar, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran an editorial talking about the idea of building a temporary park in the Park East land reclaimed from the former freeway spur.  The idea is a bad one.

I considered the idea back in June as a way to beautify the area between the Pabst redevelopment and the Palomar in the short term, and there are a lot of really good reasons not to do it.

First and the most obvious, is who is going to pay for it? Not Milwaukee County, they’re struggling to pay for the parks they have and it would be a shame to see Pere Marquette, MacArthur Square, and Cathedral Square deprived of funding to build a couple new parks.

Second, who would use the park?  Scratch your head a few more times and realize the answer is likely no one.  We need residents in the area, not underused park land.

Third, try to name a temporary park. I can’t. By placing a huge amount of green space in an urban area, you’re facing a substantial risk of never getting it back to develop.  There was quite a battle to develop an abandoned gas station into a dorm, the brownfield of brownfields on the East Side.  The city and county would have a monster of a battle on their hands, imagine the headline “Developer Trying to Turn Park into Condos”. Despite that the parkland would go unused, the not-in-my-backyard crowd would presumably show up in full force to oppose any development, despite their backyards being miles away.

Finally, one must consider the highest and best use of the land, and the reason it’s available in the first place.  It should be developed and we need to do everything we can to get it back to taxable, privately-owned property or public uses that could be catalytic to attracting more development to the surrounding area.  Creating a temporary park on it isn’t going to encourage development.  Anything done with the Park East land should be to encourage development.  Nothing to move it backward (temporary parking lots), nothing to move it sideways (parks), only to move it forward to what the original plan called for.

The solution?  Smaller lots.  The parcel was simply too big to develop.  Bigger parcel, bigger developer, bigger plans, bigger loans.  The small parcels are already being developed in the corridor, in good markets (the Flatiron), and in bad markets with a little public help (the Aloft Hotel).

Categories: Real Estate

5 thoughts on “The Park East Park? Absolutely Not”

  1. Joel says:

    I didnt read the JS article, but i would understand if it was a temporary park because of the current recession. A parcel that was supposed to be developed in St. Louis fell through, and thus St. Louis turned it into a temporary park.

    I would definately love to see it developed, but right now it probably isnt financially feasible for anyone, city/developer alike. I dont know

  2. dan says:

    people are getting impatient. the freeway was torn down years ago and nothing but mud and rocks has replaced it. after hearing about the canceled palomar i immediately thought “temporary park”. but you’re right, who would use it? would eager urbanites flock to a treeless greenspace to toss a frisbee around? and it’s surrounded by busy roads which my son would likely crawl into during a picnic.

  3. Meghan says:

    How about a temporary community garden? I don’t think anything is going to happen during a recession and it would be great if the community could claim it as a guerilla space.

  4. Dan says:

    Farmers Market for the summer??? Easy access for a lot of people, surround the outside with barricades add some police… People would love it

  5. Dave Reid says:

    @Meghan An example of a site that this happened on is up in Riverwest where people just took over (what I’m pretty sure was a contaminated brownfield) and started gardening on it. Well now the city wants to sell it, to put what should be an important corner lot back into productive use and rebuild the urban fabric, well is having to jump through all sorts of hoops. Point is things are rarely temporary and to me the possibility of developing the park east is far more important than gardening. Further the city works with various neighborhood groups to set aside small lots for this purpose.

    PS I kinda like guerrila gardening but more in the realm of street beautification.

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