Dave Reid

Three predictions for three projects in 2012

By - Jan 4th, 2012 06:01 pm

Rendering of the Milwaukee Streetcar vehicle.

We kickoff 2012 with three predictions about how three projects, which have the potential to change Milwaukee’s landscape, will unfold in 2012.  The projects?  The reconfiguration of the Lake Interchange, the Milwaukee Streetcar, and Kohl’s potential re-location to downtown Milwaukee.

Will WisDOT approve re-configuring the Lake Interchange as per the Long-Range Lakefront Plan?  The Long-Range Lakefront Plan not only included the addition of a bike trail to the Hoan Bridge, but also included a new design for how downtown connects to the lakefront.  A key part of this plan is the reconfiguration of the Lake Interchange with the goal of creating a new boulevard and opening up new lakefront property to development.   WisDOT’s quick dismissal of the Hoan Bridge bike trail, combined with its less than stellar track record of working with the City of Milwaukee doesn’t give us much faith in cooperation.  In this light we believe WisDOT will argue they can’t make the changes requested due to ‘safety’ and ‘congestion’ concerns.   No, this project is not going to happen.

Will the Streetcar project begin construction in the Fall of 2012?  The project’s key hurdle to clear is the petitioning of the Public Service Commission, by Brett Healy of Oconomowoc, if construction is to begin as planned.  If a declaratory judgement were to rule in Healy’s favor it would force the City of Milwaukee to pay for We Energies’ equipment re-location costs, unlike other public works projects and despite local ordinance.  Although two of the three members of the PSC were appointed by Governor Walker, and are likely at be at odds with the City of Milwaukee and transit in general, they did drop AT&T and ATC from the original petition showing a small window of possibility. We believe the City of Milwaukee will find a solution even if concerns over setting a precedent that could raise the cost of public works projects in communities across Wisconsin and trampling local control are ignored by the PSC.  That solution might involve the City of Milwaukee using TIF to pick up these costs, albeit with the costs being significantly less than stated by We Energies (note the Marquette Interchange utility re-location cost estimates were vastly overestimated initially), or further legal action.  This one is clearly a close call, and construction will likely be delayed because of this legal fight, but the City of Milwaukee will find a way to advance the Streetcar in 2012.

Will Kohl’s choose to move its headquarters to the Park East in downtown Milwaukee?  The City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County are working together (how about that), to bring Kohl’s to the Park East.  Working together the governmental entities have put together a proposal that would include more than $100 million in federal New Markets Tax Credits, potentially other incentives, and assistance far outweighing the $41 million TIF approved by the Village of Menomonee Valleys to entice Kohl’s to stay.  During Chris Abele’s acceptance speech he indicated his intent to work with the City of Milwaukee to develop the Park East land, and again during his and Mayor Barrett’s combined re-election announcement event he and Mayor Barrett reiterated this partnership, hinting at a possible deal.  Yes, Kohl’s will announce they are moving to the Park East as the deal being put together will be too good to pass on.


17 thoughts on “Three predictions for three projects in 2012”

  1. Dr Porridge says:

    Good analysis. Clearly the #1 thing on that list is Kohls, but man, that is a hopeful prediction. Clearly it’s in the best interest of the company (not to mention the entire metro area), but I don’t think a lot of Kohl’s employees understand that.. there will be a lot of kicking and screaming and good squad yaking. Anyway, my fingers are crossed!

    The streetcar too would be a major win for Kohls, assuming they choose the Park East! But don’t underestimate the goon squad. They’ll cry bloody murder over it and likely make expanding it very difficult. I happen to think the streetcar will fail unless it’s extended to UWM/Shorewood and Marquette and ideally the ballpark and airport. I would not proceed with it unless there was a clear path for that extension.

    It’s amazing how much hatred the goon squad has for adding the bike lane to the Hoan. The fact that they won proves they are very powerful and we need to tread lightly. The interchange reconfiguration is a spectacular and critical plan. Even the goon squad should appreciate it as it saves lots of money. But there are some very, very dumb people out there who will throw a fit if their commute gets 60 seconds longer. The key to winning this one is to contstantly talk about PRICE! It’s cheaper! Less TAXES!! Keep that hot and there is still a strong chance for it!!!

  2. head & shoulders says:

    Who is this guy from Oconomowoc petitioning to stop the streetcar? I’m familiar with the utility relocation issue and the ubiquitous antimilwaukee sentiment in the burbs,, but of what concern is our public transit to a gent from cooney?

  3. Molock says:

    Yeah, I just discovered this guy. He’s an anti-governement dude, writes for biggovernment.com … seems like a reasonable guy except for the usual hatred of urbanism and spending money on transit. I was not aware of someone levying a lawsuit however. If that’s true then it’s utterly shameless!

  4. Dave Shires says:

    Interestingly, I’m surprised to see the pessimism on the interchange reconfiguration. That seems the *most* likely project to me. Yes, the bike lane failed, but the rest of the project has to happen one way or another as basic maintenance right? IN today’s political climate, that’s a cheaper plan which also opens land for companies like NML to build out their HQ on. Seems like a no brainer to me! The other two are so mired in politics, i fear for them.

  5. Dave Reid says:

    @Dave Shires I certainly hope the Interchange reconfiguration happens as the City/County wants it to happen, but I haven’t seen WisDOT show the ability to be that flexible any time recently.

  6. Dave Shires says:

    Right … but what would WisDOT’s status quo be? Tear it down and rebuild exactly as it was before? It does need to be rebuilt, right?

  7. Dave Reid says:

    @Dave Yes it does need rebuilding, but the standard procedure is bigger higher wider. Not smaller, fit to the city… Again hope I’m wrong.

  8. CJ says:

    @Morlock Kind of ironic how people don’t like government wasting money but will go out of their way to waste money in legal fees and delays to make their point.

  9. Dave Shires says:

    You know, I reckon if the case for smaller, more efficient, and *cheaper* were simply mentioned over and over again, then conservatives, and by extension WisDot *would* listen. I’m not kidding. Repeat it over and over again and keep the mantra of “stop the boondoggle” at the front of the table. Send it over and over again to Charlie Sykes and the rest of them – to make the FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE decision we need to re-do the lake interchange as the city recommends. Save money for taxpayers! open the land for private enterprise!

    Use that kind of language and we have a winner. I’m quite serious – you guys need to write an editorial and get it published on JSonline, get your mailing list to that cat in Oconomowoc etc… it makes perfect sense and the governor *will* listen if his people are won over.

    No time like the present!

  10. Jason says:

    I came home to visit family in the Milwaukee area last summer and had a chance to visit the Pabst Brewery during the trip. From the great vantage point at the Brewery looking out over the Park East I thought how great it would be to put the Kohl’s HQs and a new arena in that parcel of land. I don’t have an academic urban planning background but I can see the merits of connecting the old Brewery to the downtown as it seems so segregated right now. Wow, this could really be an energetic, vibrant downtown.

  11. Erik says:

    While I agree that Kohl’s moving downtown would be great for the neighborhood, City and region, the real issue is the insane amount of money being thrown at a phenomenally successful company that won’t be relocating their headquarters outside of the region anyway. We need to stop these pointless, wasteful bidding wars between communities in this country in general, but certainly within the same metro area. It is the most economically inefficient way to use tax dollars and isn’t even effective for economic development.

  12. Dave Shires says:

    @Erik – you are definitely correct. Of course it’s Catch 22… if one place starts it, you have no choice but to get sucked into it. In the case of Milwaukee, I’d reckon spending some money on it is a good thing – the catalytic effect on Downtown would be massively greater than any effect in Menomenee falls (what would that be? a few more burger kings?)…. so I grit my teeth and accept it for now.

  13. Terry Ransolph says:

    Guys – it’s time to beat the drum a little louder about Kohls and Downtown. Especially if you know people who work there. The insanity of staying invisible in Menomonee falls is obvious to most of the readers of this site but the average shmoe edoesn’t think much more than “is there parking” and “what’s the cost of the land/taxes etc”. Kohls has been an average shmoe company forever but is FINALLY starting to come out and emerge as a real leader. Moving downtown would solidify that transition.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!! Talk to people you know at Kohls and help get the ball rolling on this. If they fail to move downtown it would be a disaster not only for the company but for the entire metro region.

  14. Dave Reid says:

    @Terry I hear you for sure. Kohl’s moving downtown would be good for their employees, the company, and Milwaukee! We’ll do what we can.

  15. Jeremiah Mann says:

    I was thinking about the whole Kohl’s moving its headquarters to downtown Milwaukee and thought well if they decided to they should add on and extra 200,000 sq ft to the i million they are looking for and they can probably house some of its vendors as well as street level retail, cafe’s, coffee shops and more, just to liven up the Park East area even more. It will also be a new signature tower for downtown Milwaukee, hopefully no box like structure. It’s just a thought let me know what you think.

  16. Dave Reid says:

    @Jeremiah Mann I really don’t believe Kohl’s will be building a tower, as they are looking at the Park East, but I’m fine with that..

  17. Jeremiah Mann says:

    True True. I can roll with that as well because it will still bring more business to downtown which is much needed.

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