What is the Problem in the Park East?
In the recent Journal Sentinel article, Changes Proposed to lure developers to Park East lots, Supervisor Clark is quoted saying “I think what we’re doing is just fine,” Clark said “It is the economy. We have challenges in the credit markets. I don’t think it’s anything we’re doing to scare developers away from development in the Park East corridor.” Supervisor Clark is partially correct that the economic crisis has hurt the development of the Park East, but actions or in-action by Milwaukee County have been the most significant hurdle to the development of the Park East.
The primary issue slowing development of the Park East has been Milwaukee County’s desire to sell large blocks of land, instead of breaking the land into numerous smaller properties. To develop these large lots a developer needs access to significantly larger amounts of financing. This need limits both the types of projects that can be built and the size of the developer that can legitimately get involved. Often this lends itself to a bigger, out-of-town developer, which again brings with it more issues. Specifically an out-of-town developer may lack the local knowledge to navigate the civic environment and political landscape. By breaking the lots into smaller sizes it will open up the Park East to a wider range of projects and developers that will allow development to occur in a more timely manner.
Lastly, Milwaukee County doesn’t have the depth of staff needed to properly handle a project of this size. An example of this shortcoming has been Milwaukee County’s slow process of putting properties out for proposal, which in itself shows the county’s lack of ability in this area and has directly slowed the development of the Park East. In contrast, the City of Milwaukee has successfully managed the redevelopment of the Menomonee Valley, created a vast Riverwalk system, and managed the development of the Beerline . Further the Department of City Development has a strong grasp of the zoning regulations, an understanding of the desired urban form, and has the localized knowledge necessary to see a project from proposal to move in.
It’s clear, that it is time for Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee to work out an arrangement that would allow the Department of City Development to break the lots in to smaller sizes and completely manage the redevelopment of the Park East land.