Dave Reid

Zoning Committee Votes for Approval of MSOE Parking Garage

By - Feb 23rd, 2012 02:28 pm
MSOE Soccer Parking Facility

MSOE Soccer Parking Facility

MSOE’s $28 million, 750-stall parking garage proposal received approval at the February 22nd, 2012 meeting of the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee meeting.  In addition to the parking ramp, the building will include an athletic field that will be used by two soccer teams during the fall, a lacrosse team during the Spring, and will be available for community use similar to how the Kern Center is open to the community for basketball on the weekends.  The development will include first floor retail space, and 26,000 square feet of green space that MSOE will develop and maintain in perpetuity.

The parking garage is proposed to be used for a variety of parking needs.  In particular, Dr Hermann Viets, President of MSOE, explained that the garage is “not just for students that are commuters, it’s also for those that need to get home on the weekend”.  Additionally, Dr. Viets explained that “we could provide overflow parking” for a potential theater proposal, and events during the summer.  During the first first five years of operation MSOE has agreed to lease 200 parking spaces to BMO Harris, but it appears that after five years it is likely MSOE will fully utilize the garage.  Dr. Viets made this clear saying, “we want to develop the campus”, and “we anticipate there will be some motion from surface parking lots into this development”.

The committee’s questions indicated that the most problematic part of the deal for them to accept was BMO Harris’ requirement to replace their 220 slot surface parking lot, a portion of which MSOE is acquiring to construct the parking garage.  To replace the parking BMO Harris made it clear that they needed to acquire what is a prime piece of real estate from Milwaukee County located along Water St. for a potential surface parking lot if the deal was to happen.  As part of the deal BMO Harris did agree to not build the surface parking lot for at least five years, and instead will rent 200 stalls from MSOE. But as Vanesa Koster, Planning Director explained, after five years BMO Harris, “can construct the permanent parking area”.  Alderman Murphy expressed his view of the deal saying “to me this seems like a great deal for BMO”, and added that “they just won the lottery”.

As he has said multiple times in the past, Alderman Nik Kovac stated, “if this lot get built, we’ve made a mistake“, and then he summed up the committee’s actions saying that “it does put us in an awkward position, voting to approve something [the surface parking lot], that we all hope doesn’t happen”.  All five files associated with the project were approved, with Alderman Michael Murphy abstaining because he is a shareholder of BMO Harris.  These files will now go before the full Common Council.


3 thoughts on “Zoning Committee Votes for Approval of MSOE Parking Garage”

  1. Bill Sell says:

    This is an unfortunate use of precious downtown land. And here is why. Some 40% or more space downtown is already the parking space, space-making for the car. Harpers Magazine reports that there are now in America 3 parking spaces for every auto. And on top of the misuse of space, the assessments for parking lots are the lowest assessments per square foot than any other lot in downtown Milwaukee. And these low assessments encourage owners to NOT develop their surface parking lots into productive use.

    As we make more parking available, there are two downsides: parking lot owners must lower their price for parking to meet any competition; and parking lots push office and retail further from the center of downtown, further driving up the costs of investing in commerce in the central city – the singular place in a city where densely placed commerce is highly desirable.

    While some citizens fuss over a streetcar that will actually begin to chip away at the need for parking spaces (and bring real development to the area), and while developers look for short-term advantages instead of the long-term health of the downtown, the City Council is pushed to sell short, making downtown development the prisoner of our failure to modernize our public transportation systems.

  2. As was pointed out in the hearing we can cut MSOE a little slack. The school has long retained close ties to the downtown community, and for many students there it is safe to say this is their first life experience in a big city. And they’re right in the middle of it. Other schools, most notably Concordia University “put wheels” on themselves and split town, leaving a bunch of corn-fed Lutherans to fend for themselves in the wilderness of Mequon.

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @Michael True we are very happy that MSOE is a big part of downtown Milwaukee (I’ve said it before there probably wouldn’t be a Urban Milwaukee without MSOE), and this might even help them to develop some of their surface parking lots.. But the project as a whole is well just not so great… For example, the BMO Harris part is really a negative outcome if it actually becomes a surface parking lot.

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