Dave Reid

UW-Milwaukee Should Expand in “Our Backyard”

By - Mar 11th, 2009 05:40 pm
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Normally people oppose projects because it is in their backyard, I oppose UW-Milwaukee’s expansion in Wauwatosa because it isn’t in my backyard.  I know that’s a strange concept but the list of reasons to build the Engineering School in downtown Milwaukee, my backyard, are numerous.  It’s not just my backyard, but the backyard of 600,000 residents of the City of Milwaukee.  It is these very residents who’s elected officials just this year passed two separate resolutions stating it was the City of Milwaukee’s position that UW-Milwaukee should expand in our backyard.  So if and when the County Supervisors vote to support this land sale to UW-Milwaukee understand that it is a vote against the wishes of the residents of the City of Milwaukee.

Not only does voting for this project fly in the face of the citizens of Milwaukee, but it is also clearly a vote against the environment.  Because with it comes additional congestion, pollution, storm water retention needs, a loss of parkland, and low-density sprawl.  According to the most recent amendment to the proposed contract UW-Milwaukee intends to develop up to 853,271 square feet of the total 88.99 acres.  This is the definition of sprawl.  This style of design is inherently not green as it paves over large areas for parking, and requires the ability drive from place to place.  Following the Park East guidelines this square footage could fit on Blocks 2 and 4 with room to spare.  This would encourage people to commute by mass transit, bicycling or even walking, all of which would be better for our environment.

It will also be a vote against the students and employees of UW-Milwaukee, because it will add cost by requiring a car to access the new campus.  The idea of putting such a great distance between the campuses essentially creates two separate institutions.  This could hurt student retention by decreasing the number of undergraduates that continue on at UW-Milwaukee because it will require a complete life style change.

Despite these issues it appears likely that UW-Milwaukee will soon expand into Wauwatosa’s backyard, I wonder how soon we will realize this mistake as the fire pit so many install and never use.

Categories: Real Estate

15 thoughts on “UW-Milwaukee Should Expand in “Our Backyard””

  1. Mike Pandl says:

    Long term, here is the crux of the argument in my mind:

    Milwaukee can either continue as a city with three separate, smallish engineering schools (UWM, Marquette and MSOE) in relatively close proximity to one another, but with no real collaboration, synergy or recognition (essentially, as it’s always been), or…..Milwaukee can capitalize on this huge opportunity by working with these universities to build their engineering school expansions right next to one another downtown, creating a true urban engineering district that will become a nationally recognized development and an attraction for potential students and employers alike.

  2. Dave Reid says:

    Mike you said it exactly right… Grow these three together and now you’ve got a talent magnet.

  3. Chonter says:

    Is there anywhere we can send post like this to? I mean, why isn’t the Journal all over this? OnMilwaukee? Etc.. we should be pounding on their doors to get people to think about this stuff…

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @chonter Well that’s my fault. Last year I was much more active trying to get this changed and was in a bunch papers talking about the topic. But I haven’t kept up the drumbeat as well I should of. That said if you’d email your County Supervisor and/or the Sentinel that would be a start. Thanks!

  5. Joe Wiesner says:

    Could not have said it any better, Mike. Among other problems noted by Dave, it makes no sense to have UWM’s engineers so far-flung. Some faculty and future students will undoubtedly have contributions to make to the nascent “freshwater hub” concept which UWM is supposed to lead. Why put such contributors in Wauwatosa?


  6. Dave Reid says:

    When I wrote that last bit I was worried our readers might of been tired of hearing about it from me:) But I’m glad to know that doesn’t appear to be the case…. Thanks guys!

    PS email/call your Supervisors

  7. Suzanne says:

    Dave- you are exactly right! Especially with the sale of the old Columbia Hospital buildings to UWM moving closer http://milwaukee.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/2009/02/23/story1.html?b=1235365200%5E1781339 sorry that is an unwieldy link, but this acquisition would enable the UWM campus to finally expand right in its own footprint, right within itself. A campus is supposed to be exactly that: the place, the critical mass. The business park in Tosa can host internships, right?

  8. Michael James says:

    If the UWM school of engineering had been located in Tosa five years ago, I would almost certainly not have a bachelors and masters degree in Engineering from UWM. I loved living on the east side, being able to walk / take a quick bus ride to school / stores / entertainment / etc. The idea of UWM expanding the engineering department (and other departments have been growing as well) is great; but to do it like this? Promoting Urban Sprawl? Moving a 100 faculty to Tosa? I don’t think it’s very attractive from a student perspective. Isn’t there any land downtown or on the east side? If my kids want to be engineers someday and go to school in Milwaukee, I think I’ll recommend Marquette.

  9. Chonter says:

    Hey dave – good editorial in the Business Journal Today –


  10. marty says:

    Yeah def agree with all of this. UWM & the county need to wake up!! Keeping UWM’s Graduate schools in close proximity with eachother as well as MSOE, Marquette, & MATC allows for greater collaboration and interdiscpilnary partnerships. I guess the only plus to the Tosa site is all the medical research that gets done out there at GE and the Medical School.

  11. Dave Reid says:

    @marty You make a good point that I hadn’t really articulated. The fact that the Tosa site lines up UWM to just go after one type of research whereas downtown would be a broader more interdisciplinary approach.

  12. Kate says:

    Thanks Dave! And please remind people to weigh in on the UWM Master Plan. They are looking for public feedback…..so please, please, please get involved and let your voice be heard (even if they aren’t listening)!

  13. Dave Reid says:

    @Kate sorry I’ve become a little jilted on the “master plan” if it isn’t done then why is UWM buying the land? Kinda a big joke…. but I’ll have more on it again soon.

  14. Tim Lowry says:

    The parcel of land in question occupies the northwest corner of the Milwaukee county grounds, north of Watertown Plank Rd, east of Hwy 41/45, and south of Swan Blvd. In its present state, it represents one of the largest tracts of open space left in Milwaukee County. It is a place where you can watch the sun or moon rise or set without seeing rooftops or other signs of development. You can watch several species of hawks and owls search for prey. I have seen coyotes, deer, raccoons, possums, turkeys and songbirds too numerous to list. This is a wild space, with rhythms dictated by the seasons, and the rise and setting of the sun and stars. Aldo Leopold wrote that “there are some who can live without wilderness, but I, for one, cannot. “ I have to join his sentiment.
    I moved to the area a little over a year ago, but I worked in the Eschweiler buildings, for the WDNR, in the early 1980’s. The existence of this property amazed me, and since then, I have come to know it quite well. I have also encountered dozens of people who have grown up enjoying this property, and they continue to visit it. Some walk dogs, some simply walk. One older fellow, probably in his eighties, wondered if anyone would bother him if he simply brought a sleeping bag, and spent the night under the stars. Like he did when he was younger. Others mentioned that they had seen several generations of owls hatch from nests, or had put up Bluebird houses. The location of the Bluebird houses is critical, he explained. Too close to the woods, and wrens would take over the nest, and the nest would be lost. He had many years of experience in trying to help Bluebirds become re-established at this site.
    We do not need another park for offices or research space, we need a park for people. Look at what has happened at the “Research Park” that exists between Watertown Plank Rd, Wisconsin Avenue, and Hwy 100. There are huge, sprawling buildings, flanked by sprawling parking lots, parking ramps, lawns, sidewalks and roads. Apparently, this is a monument to someone’s ego, or perhaps the almighty dollar. It certainly cannot be called an efficient use of urban space. It is hard to believe that this site has been totally developed, and there is no space for UW-Milwaukee’s needs. This used to be an area where local residents could walk and enjoy nature, and many of the people that used to visit the site now use the space that you are about to develop. Now, the only people that visit the area are employees who aren’t supposed to waste time looking out windows at the “beautifully manicured grounds”. In an area that needs open space for people, this represents a terrible waste, in my opinion. Leave an area that people can enjoy for its natural rhythms, the seasonal progression of dandelions, asters and chicory. A place that isn’t manicured grass, subdued by applications of herbicides and pesticides and mowing.
    And if you do decide to develop that precious land, please do not repeat the pattern on display at the current research park. Save a bit of open space for the people of Milwaukee County, who are taxed at an outrageous rate to support pensions granted by gutless lame ducks.

  15. Dave Reid says:

    Thanks for the comments and I agree fully. I’ve long argued that this shouldn’t be built on the County Grounds. My Backyard is downtown Milwaukee where there is more than enough brownfield space that could be developed for this project.

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