Dave Reid

Milwaukee the Water Capital?

By - May 7th, 2009 08:50 am


Yes.  The single most important expansion of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee currently underway is the proposed School of Freshwater Sciences.  We’ve all heard it “water is the new oil.”  It is true, fresh water just might be the key to future growth in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin, and with 120 water-oriented companies and facilities for five of the eleven largest water companies in the world, not to mention UWM’s existing Great Lakes Water Institute, Milwaukee is poised to become the world leader in this industry.  Not necessarily in the traditional model of simply selling water, but in the research that will help communities efficiently, and cleanly utilize fresh water.  In the research that will allow companies to cost effectively use water and properly return it back to its source.  In the research that will keep our water clean.  How better to protect and preserve Lake Michigan for recreational and public uses, than to have Milwaukee become the leading city for research into proper, clean, and efficient use of fresh water.

Already the world is watching, just recently the U.N. named Milwaukee a Global Compact City, making Milwaukee one of thirteen cities in the world with this designation.  This designation depends on Milwaukee’s commitment to water quality and water research.  Clearly the race is on, and the economic future of Milwaukee will be deeply impacted by the decisions we make today.  The next step for Milwaukee is to build the headquarters for the School of Freshwater Sciences.  Currently, UWM and the M7 Water Council are looking into the former Pieces of Eight site to locate the landmark facility, the window on Milwaukee, the cornerstone of the capital.  Could this facility be located somewhere else as some suggest?  Yes, it could, but this time UWM has picked the right site.  Because image matters.  In the real estate world the phrase “location, location, location,” is an often repeated mantra and when corporate, educational, or political leaders visit Milwaukee to learn about our research efforts the location of this landmark facility will help sell Milwaukee as the water capital.  When potential graduate students visit Milwaukee, this location will help sell them on our city and our university.

We’ve all heard the talk about how Miller Park should have been downtown, and how Milwaukee always seems to not get it “just right”.  Well this is a chance to get the right idea, in the right place, at the right time.

To learn more about the proposal and lend your support, the Harbor Commission will be meeting Friday May 8th, at 8:00 am at the Port Authority, 2323 S. Lincoln Memorial Drive, to hear presentations from UWM and the M7 Water Council.

Categories: Real Estate

9 thoughts on “Milwaukee the Water Capital?”

  1. Eric says:

    I agree that this site seems “just right.”

    The main objection raised regarding the location appears to be the obstruction to lakefront access caused by the development, with the state law cited as support. But I think that objection ignores the benefits.

    Locating the school along the lake would attract people to the waterfront.

    Often, I have heard people complain that Milwaukee doesn’t really utilize the beauty of its water resources. Placing the school at this site will increase usage of the lakefront. For example, I have never encountered a university that seemed to burden to access. Instead, they are great instigators of pedestrian access.

    Surely, a new school building will disturb the lakefront. Instead, it is just the type of disturbance that Milwaukee’s lakefront needs.

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Eric Well said. Assuming the design can respect the MAM, Discovery World, and public access this should be a great addition to our city, and really help activate the lake front further.

  3. Alex says:

    totally, totally agree. Also, please build a modern and contemporary style building with some modern art or sculptures, that will outline water, outside.

  4. Urban Advocate says:

    Does this mean we get one of these?


  5. Will says:

    There is a great example of this not too far from here: Northwestern University.

  6. ted says:

    I totally agree that Milwaukee underutilizes its lakefront. But each project needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and, are you sitting down?, there ought to be a master plan outlining a vision for all development.

    Then each proposed project can be evaluated against this vision. What are the environmental impacts? How much traffic would be generated? Does the design contribute or detract from this vision?

    Lord knows, the lakefront could handle more traffic (except maybe during Summerfest, on the Fourth of July and during Harley’s celebrations every five years) but someone ought to be asking these questions. The Alterra on the Lake, Discovery World, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Lakeshore State Park are all great steps in the right direction.

    But stewardship of the lakefront is critically important and these decisions should not be made lightly.

  7. Dave Reid says:

    @ted I agree each item proposed should be handled on a case by case basis, of course. This proposal has 4 levels of approvals to receive so it will definitely be vetted. But want Idon’t want to see is what may be a landmark institution, that helps move Milwaukee forward squashed because of politics, or side issues that don’t look at the bigger issue.

  8. Joel says:

    Does anyone else think that this will help MIlwaukee undergo a population “boom,” while other midwest cities will undergo “normal” population increases/decreases?

  9. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Joel I think a boom is stretching it, but it might help Milwaukee catch up with Chicago and other midwestern cities that have spent the past 20 years growing instead of shrinking. Milwaukee still has to deal with a massive swath of its population that is unemployed.

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