Jeramey Jannene

How Urban are Marquette, MIAD, MSOE, and UWM?

By - Nov 30th, 2010 02:00 pm
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Milwaukee is lucky to have a number of higher education institutions in its most urban neighborhoods. The four most premiere institutions are Marquette in Avenues West, MIAD in the Historic Third Ward, MSOE in East Town, and UWM on the Upper East Side. The schools vary drastically in size, but each help define the neighborhood they occupy. Despite any criticism that might be leveled against them, they each have made significant investments in the City of Milwaukee. They each generate a sizable amount of pedestrian traffic that makes the neighborhoods they call home more vibrant. Each in their own way, serve as key drivers in making Milwaukee an engaging and dynamic city. But as their respective students know, what matters at the end of the day is the grade you get. Given the resources available to each school, the question is how well are they contributing to the neighborhoods they occupy and Milwaukee’s urban core?

Marquette University

Location: Avenues West, west of downtown.

Students: 8,012 (undergraduates), 3,587 (postgraduates)

Affect on Neighborhood: Marquette defines Avenues West. In addition to the buildings themselves, there are signs visible every which way you look, as well as students.

Recent Projects: The school has recently opened a new home for the Law School in Ray and Kay Eckstein Hall. The $85 million building is highly visible from the adjacent Marquette Interchange. Journal Sentinel art and architecture critic Mary Louise Schumacher details some of the challenges with the site. Under construction along Wisconsin Avenue, thanks to a $25 million anonymous donation, is the Discovery Learning Complex. The $35 million building will be five-stories tall and include 115,000 square feet of space for the College of Engineering.

On the Horizon: Marquette is working to enhance their existing investment in the Valley Fields athletic complex in the Menomonee Valley, a development that the school could have just as easily placed in a suburb. The school is planning to invest $1.2 million to add a 3,000 square-foot facility that includes dressing rooms for teams and officials, medical treatment areas, as well as public restrooms.

Grade: A. Marquette could have ran from Milwaukee like Concordia, but instead of fleeing they kept investing in their campus, and as a result have a great urban campus that keeps getting better.

Milwaukee Institute Art and Design

Location: Historic Third Ward

Students: 630

Affect on Neighborhood: Today MIAD has a minimal affect on the built environment of the Third Ward, though it does play a key role in the area’s art scene. Unlike Marquette and UWM, you can miss it as the college doesn’t possess a lot of public signage, with the exception of recently added sign on the school. It’s minimal affect also has a lot to do with how much else is going on in the Third Ward. If you placed it in the neighborhoods that the other schools call home, it would certainly have a much bigger impact.

On the Horizon: The college is seeking to build a new 250 bed residence hall. An RFP was issued and General Capital’s property was selected at 252 E. Menomonee Street . The school must now raise the funds to complete the residence hall.

Grade: B. MIAD students inject life into the neighborhood, without the town versus gown debate that makes UWM neighbors pack public meetings, and helped spur the art scene. At the same time the school hasn’t actually broke ground on the new residence hall yet. As the school continues to expand and improve its facility, increased visibility will follow.

Milwaukee School of Engineering

Location: East Town

Students: 2,438 (undergraduates), 210 (postgraduates)

Affect on Neighborhood: MSOE defines area around the few blocks it occupies, but with the exception of a couple way-finding signs you could miss it if you passed the campus only a block or two away.

Recent Projects: MSOE has added two new facilities to their campus in the past six years. The Kern Center, a large athletic and wellness facility paid for by Robert and Patricia Kern which is one of the few developments to actually happen in the Park East corridor. More recently the university opened the Grohmann Museum to house the General Studies Department and Man at Wok art collection. The rehabilitated building was paid for by Eckhart Grohmann, and operational costs are covered by revenue from the adjacent building, which Grohmann also owns. The buildings act as bookends for the campus along Broadway.

On the Horizon: Recently the school has proposed building a 500-stall parking garage in the Park East land immediately north of the Kern Center (to be funded by the Kern’s). The catch? A soccer field on top of the garage. The facility won’t be an architectural marvel, but being built into the hillside should help hide the garage (similar to how Juneau Village Towers and Yankee Hill Apartments work).

Grade: B-. MSOE has added two urban buildings since 2004, both of which help better define the campus and add to the attractiveness of the neighborhood. Unfortunately the university still possess a number of large surface parking lots on some of Milwaukee’s most valuable, and otherwise well developed, land. The proposed Park East parking garage should give the school flexibility to reduce or develop their parking lots into better assets for school and city.

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Location: Upper East Side

Students: 25,239 (undergraduates), 5,216 (postgraduates)

Affect on Neighborhood: UWM currently dominates the Upper East Side, although much of that effect is achieved by the large amount of off-campus housing in the form of duplexes. The campus itself is well contained with a couple block area. You get the feeling you’re on a college campus many blocks from the school itself though as large numbers of students can be seen walking to and from class.

Recent Projects: The university, through the UWM Real Estate Foundation, has recently added three facilities along North Avenue, all of which include a sizable student housing component. The first UWM development in the North Avenue corridor was the Kenilworth Square Apartments, which includes apartments that can house approximately 330 students as well as street-level retail. The east side of the facility also includes facilities for the Peck School of the Arts. RiverView Residence Hall opened in January 2008 and is located along the Milwaukee River just off North Avenue in Riverwest it includes space for approximately 475 students. Most recently, the school opened the Cambridge Commons residence hall which includes space for up to 700 students and is expected to be LEED Gold certified.

On the Horizon: The university has plans to build three satellite campuses to house graduate-level schools. A School of Public Health is planned for the former Pabst Brewery on the northwest corner of downtown, thanks to a donation from the late Joseph Zilber. The university plans to expand upon their Freshwater Research Institute to build a new facility for the School of Freshwater Sciences. The water school was originally proposed for the lakefront, but plans for that location were ultimately dropped. The latest plan has split facilities between a Reed Street Yards site and the Great Lakes Research Facility on Greenfield Ave. Their most controversial plan is the one already underway, the construction of a new engineering school on the Milwaukee County Grounds in Wauwatosa. While we applaud the school’s efforts to build a new engineering school, we’ve written extensively that the location and proposed development style are misguided.

Grade: B. The university has a contract with Milwaukee County to purchase suburban land and develop it in a suburban fashion. That alone wouldn’t be so egregious, but as the school continues to invest in all kinds of “green” and urban developments across the city, the Engineering School in western Wauwatosa appears to be even more of a paradox. If the university follows through on plans to build the suburban engineering campus, it’s easy to believe that future grades on the schools urban qualities would be lower. On the upside, the school’s new residence halls have been successful in reducing pressure on non-student neighbors by reducing the number of students living in off-campus housing. They also, thanks to their good urban design, are part of what continues to make North Avenue vibrant. The Public Health and Freshwater Sciences Schools are certain to be assets to the city when they’re completed.


14 thoughts on “How Urban are Marquette, MIAD, MSOE, and UWM?”

  1. Jeramey Jannene says:

    Feel free to speak your mind here, or to vote in the poll on the sidebar.

  2. Kevin Muhs says:

    As a recent Marquette grad, I think the A may be a bit generous. Although I am proud of Marquette’s investments in the city and its neighborhood, the school interfaces poorly with the area around it. I think that more could be done to blur the lines between MU and its neighborhood to the north and west, which would reduce the isolated feeling the campus sometimes has. However, given that, I would say that Marquette has successfully used its limited resources to benefit itself, the neighborhood, and the city, recognizing that a healthy Milwaukee is required for a strong Marquette to exist. As a side note, I don’t care what MLS says about the new Law School…for the site and resources that Marquette has, that thing is a masterpiece. It will serve the university well for the foreseeable future, something that can not be said for the investments the school made in the 80’s. It took my breath away the first time I walked in it.

  3. dan says:

    Great break down. The North Ave. residence halls are a great benefit to that area and the city as a whole. The thing all these schools have in common is the limited potential for further direct expansion (ie. significant building on immediately adjacent property). I love to see the expansion to other parts of the city though, so not a big deal as far as i’m concerned!

  4. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Kevin – Good to hear feedback from an alumni. I don’t think MLS was overly harsh, she acknowledged how difficult a site it is. If you want to see rough, see the treatment the Grohmann Museum got on opening from the MJS. Part of the challenge of being an architecture critic is you can’t just heap praise on every development.

    @Dan – I’m not too concerned with expanding to other parts of the city, it’s how that development turns out. UWM has plans to build with good urban form everywhere but Wauwatosa. It would be hard to against the Wauwatosa expansion if they had actually intended to build a well-designed, walkable urban campus there.

    To be fair UWM is the only one with real challenges ahead of them to expand. Marquette can expand in Avenues West with little trouble. MIAD can cross the river into Walker’s Point (and to a number of other sites in the Third Ward as their RFP showed). MSOE has plenty of land they could expand onto. UWM is in a situation where they’ll need to demolish something to grow on land currently part of their campus, but they’ve mitigated that by looking to North Avenue, the Pabst, and Walker’s Point so far.

  5. Jason says:

    Marquette has done a great great job lately, as well as in the past. Particularly with neighborhood housing after the Jeffery Dahmer fallout. As an alum of both UWM and Marquette, Marquette lacks that raw organic urbanism that you get on Downer, North Ave, or Oakland. Marquette is producing a very pleasing but increasingly engineered and uniform environment. Funkiness and obscurity should have a place in and around Marquette’s campus.

  6. Kevin Muhs says:

    @Jeramey – That review was back when Whitney Gould was still writing for the paper, correct? I remember being pretty surprised by it, given that MSOE had carefully reused an originally very bland building.

    @Jason – Thanks for articulating exactly what I was trying to say. I’m worried that campus is, or will soon be, a victim of a series of cookie-cutter buildings. And the Campus Town area certainly is an artificial little neighborhood. But the newest dorm on campus, McCabe Hall, is an example of a preservation of a part of the neighborhood, so perhaps not all is lost. I’m hopeful the school is sensitive to its surroundings as it moves forward.

  7. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Kevin – correct. It was as she was leaving (via buyout).

  8. Len says:

    I’m pretty certain that without Marquette the whole West Side would have gone to ruin. They’ve invested heavily in improving their neighborhood in the face of some very serious student safety issues.

    As for MSOE, that museum building is, in my humble opinion, possibly the ugliest structure of any kind built on this planet in recent memory.

    Otherwise I can’t quarrel with your observations (except it seems odd that Marquette has so many Post-Grad students but no Graduate students. ((yes, I know what you meant)) ).

  9. Pete Mohan says:

    As a classmate of Kevin’s I too would argue the A grade for Marquette… the infill work on campus and landscaping improvements have certainly polished the campus aesthetically, but from a recent student’s perspective, the quality of life off campus is subpar.

    Some examples:

    – off campus housing is practically monopolized, most notably by Cedar Square, LLC. Students pay for safety in the form of proximity to campus, the less privileged students often must live further from campus, which unfortunately typically means more dangerous. The biggest issue with the living conditions is that many of the buildings that students live in off campus are close to or older than a century old and hemorrhage utility costs. (I lived in a duplex with 4 other guys on my floor, plus 5 more downstairs. The heating bills for our unit alone could reach $600/ month, a cost that seems a little high to submit poor college students to). The students hardly have any rights and don’t have the time or resources to combat and remedy such housing issues. Student off campus communities all across the city could benefit from improved weatherproofing and energy efficiency in their residences.

    – Campus Town really is ugly. Wells St. is supposed to be Marquette’s mixed-use corridor, and should be a strip of development worth showcasing. Instead, storied establishments such as Hegarty’s and Angelo’s are dropping like flies, and all we have to show for is a Qdoba, an Open Pantry, and the lame and overpriced school-managed sportsbar The Annex. As food and bev leaves the walkable area, students will increasingly choose to drink (and subsequently drive) elsewhere in the city.

    In short, the off campus community still needs a lot of investment, and could benefit from some university involvement

  10. Dan Knauss says:

    Quietly fitting in with its surrounding environment in an attractive, natural way makes MIAD the winner. It had the easiest hand to play with the perfect location and a student population that will never stress the area. Landlocked little UWM stuck inside high value residential neighborhoods was destined to face serious challenges with growth. They are getting some things right, like the Kenilworth building and North Ave. dorms. There is a lot of potential there, and I think you will be able to judge how they handled growth better in 5 or 10 years.

    If you look at simple value changes at Marquette and what it looked like in 2000 versus 2010, they win for most-improved, but the critics are correct. MU had a relatively easy path to buying up poor and run own surrounding areas and taking control. The result is much better than the slum it used to be, but it does have a central planning, sterile, canned, generic look. Too much Truman Show, Seaside, FL urbanism is a bad thing. It beats the old situation, but strips like Wells really do need private commercial development to diversify the area and improve on the current string of eyesores, like the quickeemart and chinese diner strip mall area with the parking and dumpsters in the front. Much of the off campus housing has indeed been insanely run down and inefficient on heating for decades, but I don’t know what it would take to incentivize improvements with the landlords. Doing proper rehab might actually draw back more upscale owner occupants and then you’d have complaints about high rent plus the town vs gown stuff.

  11. Eric says:

    This is an interesting post, and I generally agree.

    One thing that might help Marquette get an even better rank would be for them to lobby the DOT to cap the interstate. I43 acts as a fence hemming in the university to the West, but that road already sits below the level of the surrounding areas, why not just cover it and build a park? Even if the park ran only from Wisconsin to Wells it would allow the students to flow between their classes and the city.

  12. Dave Reid says:

    @Eric I’ve always been a fan of capping I-43… one day.

  13. Whoever says:

    Isn’t UWM buying the land from the (soon to be former) hospital that is next to it. That gives the university a lot of room to play with and probably gives them many facilities that only require minimal rennovations (e.g. patient wards could probably be very easily converted into office space or housing).

  14. Dave Reid says:

    @Whoever Yes there are buying the hospital land, and that is great news for UWM and Milwaukee.

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