Jeramey Jannene

UWM Freshwater School a No Go on the Pieces of Eight Site

By - Sep 4th, 2009 02:16 pm

The UWM School of Freshwater Sciences will not continue their plans to build a new headquarters for the school on the lakefront site that formerly housed Pieces of Eight restaurant. We had supported the location choice, but that location choice was certainly controversial. Seeking a less controversial site to house the cornerstone piece of something so valuable to Milwaukee’s future is a wise move.

The UWM Real Estate Foundation is withdrawing its proposal to use the former Pieces of Eight restaurant site on Milwaukee’s lakefront as alocation for the headquarters for the newly created University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences.  David Gilbert, President of the UWM Foundation, announced that rather than pursuing the Pieces of Eight site, the Real Estate Foundation would begin a search for other suitable locations in the region that could meet the needs of UWM and its water industry partners.  “Transforming Southeastern Wisconsin into the water technology capital of the world is an initiative that has the potential to unite this region in what could be the largest economic development initiative we have ever seen.  We cannot risk the success of this initiative over siting issues,” Gilbert said.

Assisting UWM in the site search will be community and water industry leaders including Julia Taylor, President of the Greater Milwaukee Committee and Richard Meeusen, CEO of Badger Meter.

UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago said he fully supported the decision to explore new options for housing the headquarters for the university’s School of Freshwater Sciences, the first school of its kind in the United States.  According to Santiago, the university is committed to building the broadest public support possible for the Freshwater Sciences program.  “While there is near unanimous support for expanding our region’s investment in freshwater research, the Pieces of Eight site was limiting in terms of space and the university’s control over the design of the facility.  It has become clear that the proposal to showcase freshwater research and industries at the Pieces of Eight site could end up being divisive.  Too much is at stake for us to risk losing the momentum we have established for  UWM’s Growth Agenda and for making Southeast Wisconsin the world headquarters for freshwater research and related industrial development”.

Meeusen, who is co-chair of the Milwaukee 7 Water Council, agreed. “Although many, many people endorsed the idea of building a new freshwater facility at the Pieces of Eight site,  a prolonged fight over that location is not in the best interests of our region.  We should be united in our efforts to capitalize on the tremendous advantage we enjoy with our freshwater resources and the businesses built around those resources”.

The process of identifying potential locations for UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences will begin immediately.

For those who said this was a done deal, this decision by the UWM Real Estate Foundation is a clear indicator that rational debate gets you much further than ranting without all the facts.  A more civil and well-informed public debate on issues from opponents in the future would be welcome.

To UWM, godspeed in finding an iconic home for a school too important to fail.

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8 thoughts on “UWM Freshwater School a No Go on the Pieces of Eight Site”

  1. Nick Aster says:

    So be it. I actually think this might work out better given the space and design constraints. Plus a location near the Hoan bridge or 3rd/5th wards (likely locations) would make for a nice investment in a walkable part of town.

  2. Jeff Jordan says:

    I’m liking Alderman Bauman’s idea of the buss transit center building. (Lincoln Memorial Drive & Michigan) It’s under utilized and sitting on some very valuable gateway property.
    It looks even better if they would rework the whole I 794 ramping and entrance to the Hoan Bridge.

  3. JCG says:

    Jeramey, I love ya man, but with due respect aren’t you the one who asked of opponents (on Twitter), “What are you smoking”? So please forgive me if a lecture from you on civil debate makes me chuckle, especially when it comes in a sentence in which you also accuse those with a differing viewpoint if being uninformed. Me thinks you should take your own advice on this one.

  4. jay says:

    so why were “opponents” opposed? and who are they?

  5. @JCG Ha, yes, I had forgotten about that. I was perhaps a bit too aggressive with that (targeted not towards a group, but one person’s blog post), fighting fire with fire is not always a good tactic. It is worth noting that at the same time I left a comment on the blog post that was rather civil and attempted to engage the issues with facts.

    Can’t find a link to the tweet sadly, but you got the punch line.

    @Jay From what I hear the real cog in the plans was the board of the Milwaukee Art Museum, or at least a large enough contingent of members on it. Not to add that the Harbor Commission was shaky on it, and the Common Council didn’t appear to be sold.

  6. Kevin K. says:

    At first I thought this was the best place to put the school. However, now that I think about it there really is no way for the school to grow at that location into the facility it needs to become. I think there are other locations very close to the Pieces of Eight site which would be better for the long-term development of this new branch of UWM. The only thing I think we lose out of this is a very visible place to show off our new designation from the U.N. Alas, we need to make the hopes on our future as a fresh water-leading area become reality more then we need to show off our designation, so we need the best facility for future purposes available… which this site is not.

  7. David B. says:

    Sounds like UWM didn’t get Mr.Cudahy on board with this change of plans and he’s not real happy about it(whoops)

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