Dave Reid

Public Weighs in on UWM’s Wauwatosa Expansion Plans

By - Nov 11th, 2009 02:37 pm

UW-MilwaukeeAlthough months ago UWM entered into an agreement to purchase a portion of the Milwaukee County Grounds for the purpose of expansion, the deadline for public input into UWM’s Master Plan past just this week.  Regardless if this input will be considered going forward or not, it’s worth looking to see what the UWM community thinks about the expansion plans.

There of course were some who supported the expansion plans in Wauwatosa, but clearly the vast majority of feedback regarding the expansion in Wauwatosa was in voiced in opposition.  The reasons were varied, and included environmental and sustainability issues of the proposed site that don’t fit with the sustainability goals of the overall Master Plan and UWM.  Others argued that that UWM should engage in urban infill development, to avoid the destruction of green space.  Another commenter aptly pointed out that Chancellor Carlos Santiago himself has argued that the “city is a big draw.”   Take a minute to read just a handful of the comments yourself.

A student points out how this plan seems to be inconsistent with UWM’s School of Urban Planning.

The plan inspires me to go into planning.  I am curious about the roll the Urban Planning program at UWM played in this.  I disagree with putting “Innovation Park” out west.  Doesn’t seem to fit in with the environmental sustainability portion of the plan.  Seems to me a car is required.

A graduate student argues that we need to protect our green space, and conduct infill development.

Why should UWM be hypocritical in eliminating green spaces in MKE county for the sake of an engineering school facility?  If UWM believes in being responsible to the vitality of future generations and our own society’s survival, we shouldn’t endorse plans that result in net loses in green space.  Protect the county grounds and develop in an under-utilized, abandoned sector of the city of Milwaukee.  There are tons of places like this that our own urban planning students research all the time, make the purchase and build at a neglected urban site.

This alumni believes as I, and Chancellor Santiago supposes to, that the city is a big draw for the school.

I would strongly urge against building an engineering campus out in the suburbs.  As Mr. Santiago himself says, the city is a big draw for the school.  As an alumni who now lives in the city because of my positive experience while attending UWM , I agree.  So why would you want to put a building in a location that has absolutely none of the draw of an urban environment?  That engineering building belongs downtown.

This community member points out that sprawl is a “blight on our landscape and culture,” and that “what makes UWM an attractive place to go to school is its setting in Milwaukee not ‘anyplace-USA’ suburbia.”

As a native east-sider and son of a former UWM professor, I very much feel a part of the UWM community.  Though I attended UW-Madison (graduating in 2001) I audited several UWM courses in subsequent years.  I am vehemently opposed to expansion plans that entail a satellite campus in Wauwatosa and see it as a giant boondoggle.  Downtown Milwaukee offers abundant room to expand as well as the opportunity for numerous synergies  existing infrastructure, businesses, hospitals, and other institutions. UWM is an urban school and should remain such.  Suburban sprawl is a blight on our landscape and culture, and it strikes me as outlandish that Milwaukee’s premiere public university would consider subsidizing it.  Furthermore, as a young(ish) individual, I feel that I am still in touch with the mindset of today’s students, and I am extremely doubtful of the appeal that a suburban campus would have to them.  What makes UWM an attractive place to go to school is its setting in Milwaukee  not “anyplace-USA” suburbia.  Young people are increasingly flocking to the cities, and no one is going to want to live in Wauwatosa.  This would leave long commutes as the only option  an unsavory prospect.

A graduate student in urban planning, points out the problem of the Wauwatosa site being an auto-centric location, argues that these partnerships don’t require being located in Wauwatosa, and is concerned that by breaking the Engineering School in parts it could disrupt the continuity between the programs.

Throughout the plan it refers to connectivity, however there is little mention of how a campus located in Wauwatosa will be accessible to the rest of the school.  Other than driving I don’t know a way to get to the Wauwatosa campus.  While here is a bus line that travels to the county grounds it is an hour ride from the main UWM campus.  The partnerships that UWM hopes to create at the county grounds are theoretical at this point and there is no reason that these partnerships could not be created without the Wauwatosa campus.  From what I understand the graduate program would be in Wauwatosa and the undergrads still at UWM .  What about the continuity between the two programs?  How are undergrads better served by being separated from graduate research and expertise?  There is plenty of land in the downtown and harbor area to fully fit all the buildings planned for the Wauwatosa campus.  The only benefit I see from a Wauwatosa campus is cheap land and cheap labor provided to companies located at the county grounds in the form of graduate students.

A student points out that investing $150 million in Wauwatosa will only continue to encourage urban sprawl, while the university should be working to bring people back to the City of Milwaukee.

I really like the plans for the most part.  Especially all of the new proposed buildings on the southwest part of campus.  The one thing that I really do NOT agree with is investing $150 mil. in Wauwatosa.  I firmly believe that UWM should do everything in its power to keep the campus as cohesive as possible, and as close together as possible.  I see far more bad than good in locating the research so far away from the main campus.  Downtown would definitely be a alternative.  Instead of encouraging urban sprawl in the Greater Milwaukee Area, we should be luring students and families alike back into the City of Milwaukee.  Commuting is already an issue in Milwaukee, don’t make the problem worse by spreading out the campus so much.  Thank you for your consideration.

To be clear, there were some comments that spoke positively of the Wauwatosa site.  A graduate student thought the project might “be achievable if reduced in scale, or maybe becomes a strictly virtual connection for the near term, while one staff member argued that as freshman come from areas outside the city it’s fine to expand UWM in Wauwatosa.

It is doubtful that these comments will impact the final decision as much as the potential lack of adequate funding or the will of Chancellor Santiago, but it is good to see that the alumni, and students of UWM, that took the time to comment, felt UWM should expand within Milwaukee, albeit downtown, or on the existing campus.  Further it is not that they were opposed to the project because it was in someones backyard, in this case the opposition to the project was generally because it wasn’t in UWM’s backyard.


30 thoughts on “Public Weighs in on UWM’s Wauwatosa Expansion Plans”

  1. Michael James says:

    Several years ago I received my bachelors and masters degrees from UWM school of engineering. I enjoyed living on the Eastside and probably wouldn’t have attended UWM for grad school had a regular drive to Tosa been required.

    I used to think that Chancellor Santiago was doing a wonderful job for UWM; raising money and planning the new schools of engineering, freshwater sciences and public health. But uw-MILWAUKEE investing 150 million dollars in the suburbs?.. the initial thought of it for some reason makes me want to go buy a Marquette t-shirt.

    However, perhaps my gut feeling is wrong; and the collaborations arising from the new suburban and environmentally unfriendly location will lead to great inventions and innovations; sight for the blind, legs for the wheelchair confined, a cure for cancer… only time will tell.

  2. Tim Carson says:

    I am in agreement with the majority of the UWM students who voiced their opinions and I never even attended UWM. Milwaukee needs money investments and it’s sad when the University of Wisconsin MILWAUKEE can’t even come through in this regard. Wauwatosa, although it’s a great suburb and my childhood suburb of residence, is just a suburb. It’s not the economic center of this county and doesn’t need the help. Plus, this seriously is a problem for the dorm students who don’t have cars and would have to bus-commute 25 minutes back and forth every day. This seems…slimey. As if there is something else in play that no one else realizes. That’s just my gut feeling though.

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @Tim To be fair to UWM, at this point the plan is just graduate students, so I’m not sure many would still be in the dorms anyhow. That said had I gone undergrad at UWM, and now would have to commute to continue my education that would be very frustrating. Further I imagine there will be students who will have to be on both campuses and that would be a pain.

  4. alba says:

    I work at Research Park and the area around there is ALREADY a traffic headache. Keep UWM in MKE.

  5. mike says:

    Maybe UWM doesn’t expand in vacant blighted areas of the city because they don’t need anymore students being mugged, stabbed, or shot?

    UWM fears crime spike; chancellor to meet with police chief

    Face it, UWM is partially a commuter college. Putting graduate facilities outside the city and easily accessible to the freeway makes a lot of sense. UWM is never going to be able to grow without more facilities and they need parking for that.

    Why they don’t consider expanding downtown in the former park east freeway corridor, I don’t know. Concordia and Cardinal Stritch have both expressed interest previously. We all know nothing else is getting built there. MATC and MSOE are down there, it could be a great student center without negatively affecting surrounding historic residential areas (like on the East Side), and it would be an easy bus connection to the main campus, and it’s right on the freeway.

    But what do I know, we probably need more half empty, bland condos with a great view of the freeway and county jail.

  6. Dave Reid says:

    @Mike More often than not the East Side is perfectly safe, yeah there’s an upswing right now but generally the East Side is just fine. Further UWM, has been trying to move AWAY from being a commuter school, as shown by all the dorm construction they have complete, underway, and have in the pipeline.

  7. mike says:

    @Dave Reid

    Yes, the new dorm construction scattered all over the city, along with various other existing and proposed UWM facilities. (Kenilworth, Freshwater Research, etc). Maybe if they could at least stay east of the river, the campus could be somewhat connected.

    Building more dorms doesn’t make UWM less of a commuter school. A safe and vibrant campus does. There are so many other UW campuses in the state to choose from, what does UWM have going for it? For a million reasons it’s never going to be UW-Madison. One of UWM’s advantages is the opportunities it provides for commuter students and part-time adult education in the state’s largest population center. UWM shouldn’t be competing with UW-Madison, it should concentrate on what it’s suited for and complement the rest of the UW system.

  8. Dave Reid says:

    @mike Ummm As of yet the all the new dorms are essentially on North Ave (Kennilworth is just off North Ave). Not spread all over town. That said I went to ISU in Ames and we had dorms that were essentially off campus (The Towers), my friends caught the bus and were in class just like us. Would I prefer if UWM could build more on campus yes, but well that’s a battle I’m sure will be fought soon (hospital site).

    Further the campus is most certainly vibrant, in fact some neighbors think too vibrant. And what does UWM have going for it? How bout being in the biggest and best city in Wisconsin? Going to college on the East Side, what a great location.

    Finally, In the last 10 years there has been a significant shift to becoming less of a commuter school as evidence by what 800 new dorm beds with another 700 under construction, and plans for numerous more resident halls. And the shift in owner occupied to renters of numerous houses on the East Side.

  9. mike says:


    Well we can go back and forth all day. Yes, the new dorms are on North Ave. That’s over a mile away from the main campus. I’m not saying remote dorm locations can’t work, it’s just not going to be the centralized urban campus everyone wishes it was. Also, there are plenty of non-dorm buildings UWM owns all over the city.

    Oh yes, *that* kind of vibrant. House parties where gang members show up to rob everyone, noise pollution, and vandalism, all among historic streets with multi-million dollar century old mansions. That’s just wonderful for the East Side and Shorewood community. More rental units, more parking problems, shrinking property values. You say shifting from owner occupied to renters likes its a good thing.

    These are the reasons why UWM can’t expand in its existing footprint, Santiago and the City are aware of it. Influential people live on the East Side who pay a crap load of property taxes, and they’re not going to let their neighborhood get destroyed.

    Biggest city in the state? Obviously, but still shrinking. Best? Well to each his own, but 9 times out of 10 a undergrad looking for an urban campus in WI is going to choose UW-Madison.

    UWM’s strength is its ability to partner with local business and research that is unique to the Milwaukee area. Places like the Medical College of Wisconsin, the various other research facilities on the county grounds, Great Lakes research, and uh whatever employers are still left in Milwaukee. So I support UWM if they want to build outside the city. Wauwatosa is hardly “suburbia”, and the City is just not the big draw you think it is for UWM.

  10. Jesse Hagen says:

    @mike, obviously Dave was mentioning the increased rentals surrounding UWM to refute your non-sense about UWM being only a commuter school. The share of students living on or near campus has greatly increased over the years, making these pressures worse for the neighborhood. As for crime, you’re just another victim of the local 10:00 news hype, incidents are down this year but somehow we’re in the midst of a crime wave. Besides, you act as though Madison doesn’t have its own crime problems.

    It sounds like you’re just here to rep your alum, not look at the facts.

  11. Jesse Hagen says:

    typo on the last sentence… kinda anticlimactic…

  12. mike says:


    I didn’t say it was “only” a commuter school. Commuters are a huge part of the school though, and they are legitimate students, why shouldn’t UWM accommodate them?

    I’ve lived in Madison and Milwaukee each for several years. I have a family member thats been living on the East Side for several years. The crime in Milwaukee near and on campus is not 10:00 news hype. Madison has problems, they are 100x less than Milwaukee.

    I didn’t want this to turn into a “rah rah” for alums either, but look at the facts. Each year UW-Madison rejects as many applications as UWM accepts every year.

    I’m not saying there isn’t a need for UWM, there is. Thousands of commuter students in metro Milwaukee need UWM as an affordable college option. So ripping UWM for building a new facility in Wauwatosa to accommodate cars and attempting synergy with existing business/research is ludicrous. Seems to me like they’re serving their students.

  13. Dave Reid says:

    @mike I pointed out the owner occupied to renters as evidence that UWM is become less and less of a commuter school. Of course there will always be those who commute, but this and the new dorms show the strong demand for students who want to live in Milwaukee while they go to UWM. In fact UWM turns down thousands of room applications every year as they don’t have enough housing yet. Hence the three new dorms, and the at least three more in the works in the near term.

    Further, there is a great opportunity for UWM to expand right in the neighborhood. The former Columbia St Mary’s site, which incidentally includes a big parking garage for those commuters if need be.

    Surely UW-Madison is a great place to go to college as well, but for city life in Wisconsin Milwaukee is the place to be.

    The Tosa site flies in the face of UWM’s own School of Architecture and Urban Planning, ignores any green initiatives UWM might be undertaking, and ignores the actual existing collaborations UWM has right now with Marquette, MSOE, and companies like Rockwell. The list is long as to why this isn’t a great move, but don’t listen to me read the public comments by students, alumni, faculty, and staff yourself, from what I saw the vast majority don’t like the idea either.

  14. Michael James says:

    I think this site is about “championing life in the cream city” not “championing life in the city that is crime ridden and inferior to Madison,”…

    Moving institutions / people to the suburbs ignores urban problems and even makes them worse… it also involves unnecessarily using up natural resources.

    but, i like mike’s above comment about placing the new engineering school in the Park East area… there would also be room there for other expansion there.

  15. John says:

    I really don’t get why some people are opposed to UWM competing against UW-Madison. UWM is trying to shake off it’s image as a commuter school, building the engineering campus in Tosa would greatly hinder that. As far as crime goes, you’ll have that in any major city. Marquette seems to handle the crime problem quite well, UWM should be able to do the same.

    All future expansions of UW-Milwaukee should be in the city itself. You’ll find the most of the faculty and student body agree with this notion.

  16. Peter says:

    I actually go to UWM right now and from a current student’s perspective, I think the Wauwatosa campus is absurd. It goes against logic, to unnecessarily separate the two campuses by that much distance. With this aside, I REALLY like most of the ideas in the master plan. I cannot wait to see all of these new buildings get built on the main campus and see my campus become better than what it is.

    In regards to Mike’s comments, Milwaukee’s not shrinking, as it has in the past, it’s actually growing if you’ve kept up on any sort of recent news. UWM parties do not get mugged, the historic houses you’re reffering to aren’t getting destroyed or vandalized (they’re east of campus, where UWM students aren’t, they’re mostly south of campus), and property value as a whole on the East Side certainly isn’t shrinking. It’s obvious you have something against the area/school, although you’ll probably deny it. UWM is a big underdog by design. It’s only 50 years old, it’s totally landlocked on its main campus, its sports program is underdeveloped at the D1 level, and on and on. But I still love it. I love UWM because I think it has so much potential. A lot of those million reasons that “UWM will never be UW-Madison” have to do with the UW Board of Regents not wanting UW to advance. If you look at any sort of history on UWM, it’s evident that they didn’t really want to UWM to happen. They’re content with Madison being the top dog in every aspect. But that’s another story. I love UW-Madison as well as the city, but I think it’s absurd that there should only be one “highly ranked” public school in the state. Look at just about every other state…..there often is more than one big public school that ranks highly. If UWM makes smart decisions, they absolutely can become a great school. Not to try and replicate Madison, but to offer its own research, identity, and experience. I know WI is only 5.5 mil people, but I think we can deserve more than just one top notch public school. But that’s just my opinion. Growing up a half hour from Madison, I went there much more frequently as a kid growing up than I did to Milwaukee. I didn’t know much about Milwaukee until I got to college, which is kind of sad. Now I absolutely love the city, and want to see it as well as its biggest school continue to grow, prosper, and become of higher quality.

  17. mike says:

    Amazing how I’m continually quoted on things I never said.

    I don’t have anything against UWM or Milwaukee. I do have a lot of problems with Milwaukee leadership that is killing the city, which also kills UWM.

    I never said UWM couldn’t be a great school. I said it can never be UW-Madison.

    Everyone here seems to acknowledge the existing UWM campus is land-locked and essentially cannot grow, yet are critical of plans to expand away from the campus. No one has offered any realistic solution. Is the Wauwatosa location perfect? No. But cramming another building near UWM in a residential neighborhood with no parking or easy freeway access has the high potential for failure. Did anyone consider that?

    Everyone’s got great emotional reasons why they don’t want the building in Tosa. Anyone care to work with some facts and logic?

    I live in Milwaukee. There’s nothing more I’d like to see than Milwaukee grow and become successful. UWM is part of that. How is it that I’m the guy accused of trashing Milwaukee and UWM, when really I’m the only one supporting UWM’s expansion plan?? Why is it so absurd that UWM would want to continue to provide a great education to its commuter students as well as on-campus students? You want UWM to die, shut down all the u-park sites and make it even more impossible and expensive to park on campus. UWMers have such an inferiority complex because so many students commute. Get over it, and as I’ve been saying all along, embrace it and build off the uniqueness of the metro area’s needs and business partnerships. Commuters are not second-class students!

  18. Dave Reid says:

    @mike We’ve written extensively both here at UrbanMilwaukee.com (search) and at http://www.uwmdowntown.org as to why UWM shouldn’t expand in Tosa, where it can build in Milwaukee, and how it can build on existing partnerships to grow it research capabilities.

    Further UWM can grow on the East Side. The Columbia St. Mary’s site, right next to UWM, is for sale and would be an excellent site for dorms, engineering, and yes even more parking as it has a large parking garage already.

  19. MP says:

    Sure, they’re talking about plopping a research facility on green space, but it’s adjacent to THE center of academic research in Southeastern Wisconsin (MCW + Children’s + Froedtert + Blood Center). MCW alone has hundreds of researchers, graduate students and post-docs right across the street. And given that they bring in something like $150 million per year in external research funding, UWM is right to get cozy with them. The new faculty want joint appointments and research space at MCW (http://www.jsonline.com/business/66731082.html). If their labs were on the existing campus, downtown or on the harbor, UWM could only hope that they drive out to the west side each day to cultivate those relationships.
    So…now that plans have been downgraded from an entire campus and research park to just a few buildings, why not push for construction on the other side of Watertown Plank? Get a building that physically connects with the existing research labs so they can eat in the same cafeteria, share parking lots, have direct access to existing animal facilities, and more easily use big-budget equipment?

  20. Dave Reid says:

    @MP Your suggestion of being on the other side of the street would certainly improve the plan. Because as it stands now people will still have to drive from the proposed UWM (tosa) site to any collaboration with MCW or GE (like 1.5 miles despite being able to see it).

  21. Dave Reid says:

    @MP Further I’d add it currently is the center, but UWM is actually, today, collaborating with MSOE and Marquette on real projects. That is something they should be growing.

  22. John says:

    @Mike There is plenty of space in Milwaukee for UWM to grow, and not even necessarily in the east side. Just a short distance away exist capitol ave, UWM already has a park and ride and a warehouse over there. Why couldn’t UWM expand over there? There is nothing but empty warehouse around that area with a retail park mixed in. I truly believe that this should be the area UWM expands to, and a big plus is that its right off the interstate.

  23. Nick Aster says:

    Has anyone raised the subject of the Hartford Avenue School? It’s a great school, but perhaps it’s time to move it? IT’s the dead center of UWM, has a lot of space used by blacktop. Imagine if the school could be moved somethere and that land used for a couple of dorms, and a central gathering place like a small central park!

  24. Brad says:

    Mike, your comment from November 12th states:
    Oh yes, *that* kind of vibrant. House parties where gang members show up to rob everyone,

    Clearly you never went to UW-Milwaukee and know nothing about the campus life. I never heard of a party being robbed by gang members my entire time there and the east side in general is a safe area. I think that you should probably not talk about things that you know nothing about. It makes you sound ignorant.

  25. Aimee says:

    I attended a few graduate classes at UW-Milwaukee in the College of Engineering and work in downtown Milwaukee. I no longer attend classes there because it is extremely difficult for me to get there and park in time for evening classes after work – and makes for a really long day to head home to Genesee.

    There is a very real population of people who work full-time for whom it would be much easier to attend a campus in Tosa. Some of these people have excellent real-life experience that would greatly benefit students who have done nothing but school their whole lives. I think it is very necessary to consider the option of the Tosa campus.

  26. Jesse Hagen says:

    Word to the wise, don’t complain about your drive if you choose to live ~30 miles from where you work/go to school.

  27. mike says:

    You guys are so obnoxious. It’s not practical for everyone to move within walking distance of where they work. Aimee is a state taxpayer too, and has every right to support a campus that is more convenient for people who don’t want to live in 900sqft apartments with elitist snobs on the east side. God forbid UWM would expand its student population to include working adults who own cars.

  28. Jesse Hagen says:

    Yes mike, the only two options available are live with walking distance or drive 30 miles. God forbid someone actually utilize the many parking structures at UWM.

    What’s next, complain about your drive to UW-Madison from Racine, then demand they have classes closer?

  29. mike says:

    The UW system already provides more convenient alternatives for residents of Racine, including UWM, UW-Parkside, UW-Whitewater, and UW-Waukesha, which covers just about all the classes you could take at UW-Madison.

    > God forbid someone actually utilize the many parking structures at UWM.

    That doesn’t make UWM any easier to get to. I’m not going to go through this all over again. UWM has a large number of commuter students, and UWM believes they can get more. The current east side location of UWM is in the middle of a residential neighborhood, not near the freeway, and is land-locked. It sucks for commuters, there’s not much room for growth, and lots of surrounding residents (paying above avg taxes) aren’t thrilled about more students and more congestion in their backyard.

    Adult education is a growing market, if you haven’t noticed all the advertising in the last 10 years. Adults tend to have full-time jobs, live in a house, have kids, and own a car. Their time is limited, and they’re not interested in lingering around campus after classes. The Milwaukee metro area is the largest concentration of adults in the state, UWM is the largest college in Milwaukee, yet they can’t effectively serve their market at their current location. Why is it so absurd then that UWM expand its campus to better serve commuter students? The current east side campus isn’t going away. If an undergrad student wants an experience where 95% of the students live on campus, there’s 12 other UW system 4-year schools they can attend.

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