More Parking for Summerfest. Really?
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.
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.