Dave Reid

More Parking for Summerfest. Really?

By - Apr 27th, 2010 10:21 am
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Summerfest recently announced plans to acquire additional land in the Third Ward for more parking.  Unfortunately, this is the last thing the Third Ward needs as there’s literally an ocean of parking spots that sit empty for the vast majority of the day.  This idea seems to be unnecessary, unwise, and detrimental to the neighborhood.

The first issue, is this necessary, or more specifically does Summerfest truly have a need for more parking?  Last year 835,679 people attended Summerfest, and in 2001 1,039,794 people were able to attend Summerfest, so apparently people have been able to get to the event without these additional 460 parking spots.  Now of course there are the variety of ethnic festivals held on the Summerfest grounds as well, but its clear people have been able to find a way to the grounds without these spots.  As these spaces are only used a few days out of the year a better solution for the perceived need could be improved shuttle service which would have the additional benefit of not negatively impacting the Third Ward.

Secondly, what is Summerfest as an organization saying with a move such as this and is it wise?  When parking is added (or required by zoning) it becomes easier to drive, the net result of which is encouragement for attendees to drive to a facility that has a heavy emphasis on beer sales.  So when you put drinking and expanded parking together the message heard is “please drink and drive”.  Certainly, this is not the intention or goal of Summerfest, but it is the result.  Further, hoping event goers will use a designated driver or generally won’t drink isn’t a particularly responsible, realistic, or wise approach.  Understand that to some extent all liquor related facilities make this assumption, as America’s built environment demands it, and there will always be some who drive, but wouldn’t it be better to recognize this error? Instead of building parking, add transit service and population density to the Third Ward both of which would help to reduce this problem.

Thirdly, this is an area, that even today, is seeing ongoing development, and has in recent years become one of Milwaukee’s most urban neighborhoods.  Adding more surface lots could be detrimental to the continued development of the neighborhood.  The development of existing parking lots in the Third Ward is the logical next step for neighborhood growth, and a new surface lot is nothing more than a step in the wrong direction.  Simply, what the area needs is more population density, not autosprawl.  By adding more surface parking this area will become less walkable, more congested, and less desirable.

Finally, land in the Third Ward is some of the most valuable in the city (and state), and an additional surface parking lot could have a negative impact on nearby property values, as large lots can attract crime and trash.

Hopefully, Summerfest’s true goal is to develop this property as a year-round entertainment venue, as has been rumored in the past, or a mixed used facility which could serve both neighborhood and festival needs.

Categories: Real Estate

12 thoughts on “More Parking for Summerfest. Really?”

  1. If there was a parking spot for every attendee at Summerfest there would be a fight to add more. When I attend events in Chicago and other places across the country a part of the excitement and journey is using public transportation to get around. Milwaukee should really embrace public transportation. All of that parking that currently exists for Summerfest is only used during Summerfest and sometimes not at full capacity. Keep it up David!

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Keith Right on… I do hope Summerfest’s true intent is to redevelop this property in the future….

  3. Ken says:

    I don’t see a problem at all. Most of development has stopped since the recession- why not use the land for parking while it’s there. Once the 3rd ward does get more developed, a surface lot would be easy to sell- nothing to knock down- dig and build. I do want more development in the 3rd Ward as you do, however we are not there yet.

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @Ken lives:) Reasons note in the article aside. Quite simply “temporary” parking lots are for the most part a myth. Once it becomes a parking lot more often than not it will sit vacant for decades.

    PS Construction continues in the Third Ward, just blocks from this site. Corcoran Lofts is just about done (I think doing interior work now or about to open), and Jackson Square Apartments are still being built…

  5. Ken says:

    I see- so it’s kind of like the “democratic temporary taxes”- they live forever.

    Just pulling your leg Dave- give me a call

  6. Dan says:

    Couldn’t agree with this article more. They should get rid of some of the current parking for more developments. The Cubs have next to no parking and one of the worst teams in baseball and they continue to sell out Wrigley game after game because of the neighborhood and ease of public transportation to the stadium. The Third Ward needs to continue to evolve.

  7. Brent says:

    Absolutely agreed. This city is overflowing with parking lots. Why not build parking structures and developing levtover lots?

    It’s not like the Third Ward hasn’t seen development during the recession — in fact, the Shepard Express lists it as the only district in the city that has seen consistent growth during the recession.

  8. Dave Reid says:

    @Brent I know their is still construction in the Third Ward, though apparently Corcoran Lofts is finished as it appears to now have people living in it! I do hope Summerfest’s real plan is for a year round venue, we’ll see.

  9. Stephen F. Thiel says:

    Does Summerfest control the former Charter Wire facility? Do they control all the way to Erie Street?
    This area needs more development, not more parking.

  10. Dave Reid says:

    @Stephen Tom Daykin as a followup blog on exactly which building Summerfest built, but no I don’t believe Summerfest has the entire site.

  11. Dave Reid says:

    @Nick, Yeah and the first building is already under demolition… Not that the building needed to be saved, it didn’t, but more single purpose parking… doh

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