UWM’s Expansion Must Include Former Columbia Hospital Site
Although, we have been critical of UWM’s efforts to expand in Wauwatosa, we have always believed that UWM’s growth is critical to Milwaukee. Specifically, the School of Freshwater Sciences, the School of Public Health, and an expanded research program in the Engineering School are all desirable goals that collectively can help UWM and Milwaukee grow. But beyond these initiatives UWM simply needs more space for its students to live on campus, or at a minimum in UWM-managed housing. Over the past few years UWM has been built two residence halls, Riverview and Kenilworth, and is nearing completion of a third, Cambridge Commons, but still has a need for thousands of more beds, as UWM turns away numerous potential students from university housing, due to a lack of on campus housing, every year.
To meet this need and potentially house some or part of these initiatives UWM’s acquisition of the former Columbia Hospital site is without a doubt a key piece of the expansion puzzle. It is likely that East Side residents will find this distressing and likely oppose any effort by UWM to purchase and develop this site, but expanding on this site makes the most sense for UWM, East Side residents, and the City of Milwaukee.
What are the alternatives? Now that private development plans have fallen through it is possible that this site might sit vacant for years, or worse yet being demolished for a surface parking lot. Hopefully neither of these alternatives will play out and UWM will be able to move forward on plans to acquire the former Columbia Hospital.