No no no… No!
Next Generation Real Estate Inc. recently proposed a $35 million 6-story mixed-use building with 130,000 square feet of class A office space, 270 parking spots, and 17,000 square feet of first floor retail at the southeast corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Broadway. To accomplish this it would require the tearing down of 60% of the buildings on Broadway, and 90% of the buildings along E. Wisconsin Avenue. A $35 million development is not something we would normally oppose, but this project is a non-starter.
It’s a non-starter for a variety of reasons. This demolition would include at least four buildings with historic designation, some of which have received both local and national historic designation, but it isn’t as simple as to say that these buildings are historic and therefore shouldn ‘t be demolished. Often hardship or deterioration is an unfortunate but acceptable reason for demolition, though in this case Next Generation Real Estate Inc. has been involved with these properties throughout much of their decline, so that hardship is at least partially self-inflicted. Finally, the designation and history is an important factor, but it goes beyond that. These buildings are part of the fabric of downtown Milwaukee.
Demolition of these buildings will remove an opportunity for Milwaukee to have another unique, vibrant, and urban street. Just ten years ago the great buildings on Milwaukee St. sat nearly vacant, while today it has become one of Milwaukee’s great streets. What would downtown look like had the buildings on Milwaukee St. been torn down? Further from our memory, is that this almost happened to Brady St., and just what would the East Side be without Brady St.? Thankfully, both Milwaukee St. and Brady St. were saved, and are now two of Milwaukee’s great streets.
Hopefully, Next Generation Real Estate Inc. will realize what they have, forget about these plans, and work with the city, much like Compass Properties did with the Historic First Wisconsin building, to obtain financial assistance so they can improve and rehab their existing buildings, bringing life back to Wisconsin Ave. and Broadway.