Tom Bamberger
In Public

Hammes Building An Obvious Mistake

But is it worth fighting to stop it? Nah. Here’s why.

By - Nov 21st, 2016 03:49 pm




Kathleen Klassen  —   “An architectural abomination, it defies all elements of good design.”  

Eric S  — The building looks to me like it is an over-sized suburban bank – like it belongs in a huge (perhaps Brookfield) parking lot.”  

MidnightSon —  Belabored. What you find in the suburbs when a developer wants to create context and character that doesn’t exist already.

Ben T  — There are many classical-style buildings in downtown, but this type of classicism looks like a cut out from Virginia, New England, or the 1700s. 

Urban Milwaukee commenters got it right in this story and this one. You can’t say enough bad things about the proposed Hammes Company headquarters on North Water Street.

It’s a “Jeffersonian” flavored building, according to Hammes, apparently meant to represent the developer’s political views about the free-market, states rights, and traditional American values. I’m pretty sure Thomas Jefferson (a Francophile, dandy, and slave owner) attributed no such thoughts to his buildings. More than anything else he was a classicist who lined things up. Jefferson loved the harmonies, balance, and order of High Renaissance Italian architecture, particularly Andrea Palladio (1508-1580).

The Hammes headquarters, to the contrary, has none of the virtues of Jefferson’s architecture and all the vices of late 20th century suburban development. You know, the sort of daft buildings that are present for only a few seconds out of the corner of your eye at 60 mph on the freeway.

Jefferson was rigorous and kind of minimalist, an ornament-free classicist. Jon Hammes is a maximalist, his building a slapdash affair. I counted nine different window types. Jefferson would maybe use three. It looks like a test to see which kind of window might work.

The scale of the elements is all wrong. There are no volumes. As a consequence, the Jeffersonian flourishes lose their meaning. The octangular dome, modeled after Jefferson’s Monticello plantation, belongs on wedding cake rather than a building.

The building has so many different sorts of rectangles thrown together that it doesn’t really have a shape. There are no character or core values in place. Nothing holds this building together. Hammes simply skips Palladio’s and Jefferson’s basic idea. Proportions matter.

It would be out of proportion with itself, if it had a self. The Hammes headquarters is just an amorphous heap of Jeffersonian tchotchkes drizzled on to a bloated box.

Jefferson wanted to be the smartest guy in the room. Hammes headquarters is going to be the dumbest building in Downtown.  Jefferson would be appalled, we all should. We’d all be better off if Hammes applied his Jeffersonian interests to a tee-shirt instead of a building.

Hammes HQ

Local architect Ursula Twombly circulated an email and went to the City Plan Commission meeting to stop it. Not likely since the alderman for the area, Nik Kovac, seems to love the Hammes building, calling it a “classic, strong masonry building.” The project passed five to one on November 7th, with Whitney Gould (the former architecture critic for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) voting against it and has since won the approval of the Common Council’s zoning committee. Opponents could ask the full council to oppose it, but that would be an uphill battle.

And I don’t think this is a good fight. As Rem Koolhass has noted, the great things about cities is no one is in charge. Not Hammes, Kovac, a city committee, or anyone else. There are a lot of good buildings in downtown Milwaukee and this one will, by contrast, make that all the clearer. In America we all get to learn from the mistakes rich people make in public.

Downtowns used to be where the future hung out. That was especially true when men wore hats and suits in Milwaukee, and American industry powered the nation through two world wars, when the future was bright and buildings looked forward rather than back.

And today, well… Such a deeply pessimistic building as this one will not last like the many older buildings in Milwaukee that looked to the future instead of the past. The Hammes Headquarters will not stand the test of time because it is not of its time.

Categories: In Public, Real Estate

49 thoughts on “In Public: Hammes Building An Obvious Mistake”

  1. will says:

    I think the building looks great! Bravo Hammes!

  2. tom says:

    There should be a statue of the great Jon Hammes in the center balcony sitting in a chair looking out at the masses.

  3. John says:

    BUTT-UGLY. No two ways about it.

  4. mbradleyc says:

    “That was especially true when men wore hats and suits in Milwaukee”. Kind of an awkward (what, metaphor, image, example?), don’t you think?

    The building is different. If it is well constructed, it will be nice enough. Better than a lot of places downtown. So it’s not award-winning. They can’t all be that. I like it.

    I appreciate your viewpoint. But do you ever write about what you like?

  5. TB says:


    It’s just that people tend remember the negative ones. I do write positive reviews. Not as many as I would like. You can find them on Urban Milwaukee’s website.

  6. Bill Kissinger says:

    I agree that this is a dreadful building, but before we call it the worst, let’s not forget MSOE’s Grohmann Museum, a true embarrassment by any definition. It too has a corner rotunda. To cement its kitsch credentials firmly, it also has 9 heroic figures atop ite two street facing sides. Perhaps the Hammes building wins this race to the bottom on scale alone, but the Grohmann is not merely grotesque, it is exuberantly so.

    That said, is anyone really surprised that Hammes has proudly presented this bad building like a cat presenting a dead mouse on the living room floor? Just look at their last downtown adventure, the Heartland Advisors building which sits across Wells Street from the Pabst Theater..

    For that matter, consider their other contribution to downtown, the Milwaukee Center complex across Water Street from City Hall. Despite the fact that this project won Jon Hammes a cover of Milwaukee Magazine in the mid-1980s, it is just plain bad by all esthetic and urbanist measures. Hammes clearly has a penchant for deeply cynical buildings..

    As bad as the Hammes HQ building look in the renderings, just wait until the “value engineering” (stripping off the good stuff) starts.

    I have not looked at this closely enough to be 100% sure, but this building will be quite prominent as one travels north on N. Water Street. Buildings that sit at the end of view corridors -Think the War Memorial at the end of Mason Street or the Art Museum at the end of Wisconson Ave- are especially important. Blame the (uncredited) architects for not recognizing and responding to the importance of this site.

    Then again, who can name a decent, genuine and good building (genuflect for the Calatrava here) that has been built in downtown Milwaukee in the past 50 years?

  7. Ben says:

    If it were up to Urban Milwaukee and its associated “peanut gallery” absolutely nothing would be able to be built because the design critics would be to busy squabbling about the perfect design for every new building in MKE.

    Maybe direct some of the negatively to praising Hammes for investing its capital to expand the tax base in MKE. This building is also going to create jobs. This building is a positive regardless of your approval of the aesthetics.

  8. Chris says:

    Just a side comment to the webmasters, that font is painful to read. I don’t know if it’s like that on other content on the site, but it would be easier to read with less of an indent and being a bit “thicker.”

  9. Chris says:

    Thank you Tom, for giving this building the public de-pantsing it so rightfully deserves. It’s not just bad aesthetics, it’s pretty terrible urbanism. Though as much blame for the latter can be attributed to MSOE and their collection of ham-fisted buildings nearby — the parking structure, the Kern Center, that confused faux germanic museum, etc… What’s another throw away building in this dead environment, right?

    Some will simply say, but what about the investment this represents? To them I say, we have a talent attraction and retention problem in Milwaukee. This building sends the exact wrong message to the bright minds that we need to be recruiting.

  10. Rail Fan says:

    I have a generally positive take on the proposed Hammes Company headquarters building. Let’s look at the positives: it will bring a company headquarters, sorely needed new jobs and a increased tax base to the City of Milwaukee. The stately structure will add diversity to architectural building styles found in the downtown area.

    I am a graduate of the University of Virginia so I like the inclusion of a Jeffersonian type dome in the building design. Of course, it is not the same thing as the recently remodeled Rotunda which is the centerpiece of Thomas Jefferson’s academical village. The academical village and Monticello, which can be observed from the Lawn, after all makeup a Unesco World Heritage site.

    The Hammes building seems to be a nod to the architecture of Thomas Jefferson. I share Mr. Hammes academic interest in the life of Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States.

  11. TB says:

    Ben…. you say: “If it were up to Urban Milwaukee and its associated “peanut gallery” absolutely nothing would be able to be built because the design critics would be to busy squabbling about the perfect design for every new building in MKE.”

    I say in the article that we shouldn’t fight it. I think the headquarters should be built and we should learn from it. What’s wrong with having an opinion about the world we live in?

    Rail Fan….. Let’s not confuse architecture with development. Yes, a building is better than an empty lot in Milwaukee. We all agree raising the tax base is a good thing. That much is obvious and not what I am writing about.

  12. AG says:

    I have to disagree with Chris, post #9. From what I’ve seen and read, one positive quality of this building that most people can agree on is that it is a decent design for urbanism. With the street level retail, the set backs and scale, and finally that they did their best to hide the parking structure within the rear of the building, this is not bad in that area.

    I personally like the design of the building, especially if done with quality materials, but I can see the comparison to a suburban office building… it’s a fine line, but I think it walks just on the right side of that line.

    All that said, I do find it amusing that some people dislike it for ideological reasons rather than architectural. Are not even buildings safe from political debate now?

  13. Lynne says:

    The Hammes building has much more pleasing lines and details that that still-butt-ugly new arena…

  14. Bill Kissinger says:

    Those commenting in favor of this design are mostly falling into a false dilemma, Good design and economic development are not mutually exclusive. Informed architectural criticism (which is in short supply in Milwaukee, sadly) raises awareness of the fact that just because a developer can propose a crummy design it doesn’t mean they should.

    The fact is that instead of this mess Hammes could be proposing a building that has some design merit, This building has nothing design-wise to commend it.

    Those who will have to live with this eyesore have every reason to speak out and call it for what it is.

  15. MidnightSon says:

    @ Bill Kissinger:
    Hear, hear!

  16. Tim says:

    I prefer the intentional scale and proportions of the classical revival architecture that was wrought in Jefferson’s time, but this is still a nice addition to the area.

    I see all the criticism of this building and do wonder, why here & why now? When a new building is put up in Brookfield, why aren’t any pixels spilled over that? If this was a modern box with an oversized & non-structural steel beam slapped on the side, why would that garner praise?

    Most modern architectural criticism is just goading others who aren’t putting out the next fad, if you try to build with proportions and classical elements, somehow you’re not original. As though originality is merely about being different.

    Finally, we hear the lazy trope about the building “not of its time”… yeah, no. That is the laziest criticism with no depth when examined. Jefferson’s style wasn’t “of its time” during the 1700’s… because it was a revival of classical forms. It’s a ludicrous assertion that gets parroted by those that dress in the all black architect uniform and those that so desperately want to impress the same. If you can’t even muster the creative energy or confidence to pick out a wardrobe, instead of following your profession’s edict on textiles… how can you have the expertise to figuratively tear down someone’s work?

  17. MidnightSon says:

    Could there be anything more tedious than reading criticism of architectural criticism? Yes! When said criticism reverts to ad hominem like “peanut gallery,” “those that dress in the all black architect uniform,” etc.

    When will the critics of the critics give up that old trope? 😉

  18. TB says:

    Tim says: I see all the criticism of this building and do wonder, why here & why now? When a new building is put up in Brookfield, why aren’t any pixels spilled over that?

    Tom: GOOD QUESTION. And I got a good answer. In cities we live with buildings, They are part of our world. You see them out the window and walk by them. In Brookfield you drive by buildings. In other words, we have a more intimate and sustained relationship to buildings in cities than in the suburbs.

  19. Sean says:

    The unknowing public is going to associate this building with MSOE. It looks like it should be part of a University campus. Unfortunately, for Hammes it’s going to do little for their marketing presence in downtown. I am sure MSOE will end up buying this building in 10 years and make it part of their campus, maybe a school of Architecture?

  20. Virginia says:

    TB makes a good point about the urban v. suburban experience and points of reference. We city dwellers also are choosing to engage on a site called URBAN Milwaukee!

    Bill Kissinger, Chris & others: Here’s a gauntlet. How about organizing–or nudging–some type of public forum or series on the whats and whys of Good Urbanism (including what constitutes worthy architecture and why–from various points of view). Milwaukee could benefit from more public discourse and education about these issues. Media outlets, including Urban Milwaukee, could be enlisted as sponsors/promoters. UWM SARUP does events but we need more public discussion in the community, not just on campus.

    Two major public events in this vein (that I know of) were held this year, both at Turner Hall. John Norquist spoke about the legacy of Jane Jacobs as part of her 100th birthday anniversary. A scheduled follow-up panel was cancelled for lack of time.

    The Journal Sentinel held a forum about the arena’s architecture and related design issues. Unfortunately, it was well after the fact and thus moot. Such events seem best if they are not merely to justify an approach already determined.

    Milwaukee Business Journal does many events and perhaps could be engaged to host ones addressing architecture, public spaces, etc. These issues have bearing on the cumulative image of Milwaukee being created/reinvented.

    As Milwaukee tries to progress in its civic aesthetics and goals relating to urbanism, there needs to be more than a few people promoting such concepts and talking in small circles about the good, the bad and the ugly.

  21. Virginia says:

    Correction: Of course there are people engaging here who are not city residents. Nonetheless, most content on this site is presented through an “urbanist” filter or relevant to life in Milwaukee.

  22. Joe says:

    4: The building is different

    Only in the sense that it’s different from its surroundings, which doesn’t on its own make the building good. It certainly is not “different” in terms of design; you can drive around the sprawl of American and find thousands of buildings that look like this.

    It’s forced in every sense of the word – there is nothing “Jeffersonian” about healthcare real estate development; there is nothing even remotely of this type in the area; and the design elements themselves seem to be haphazardly barfed onto the structure as opposed to even reflecting something typical of the era.

    This will be an eyesore downtown. One can only hope that the company outgrows it and that it is knocked down as soon as possible.

  23. Johnny boi says:

    There’s an old expression an art teacher once told me, and I can’t remember exactly who said it originally but it goes something like this: “There are only two types of art in this world: Good art and bad art.” While that at first sounded very closed minded, what it means is that if a work follows the principals of good design in order to be visually pleasing, it is good design, regardless of the style, medium, or content. Conversely, if it doesn’t follow these principals, it is bad design. This building is well designed, looks like it will be well built with quality materials, and follows URBANIST PRINCIPALS. While the style might seem out of place, it will only add to the visual diversity of that part of the city. I’m very confident this building will look much better when built than in the renderings and while it may cause a bit of in uproar now, critics will realize it isn’t so bad after it is built.

    Would you prefer another glass box?

  24. CJ says:

    I don’t get the politics people are assigning to this building. I don’t really understand what people think defines “urban”. Do I like the building? I give it a “meh.” But is it horrible? No in the least.

  25. Dave says:

    Must everything built downtown be a white and glass box? Moderne, Couture, UClub Tower

  26. Joe says:

    Would you prefer another glass box?

    Why do so many people insist on forcing the false choice between obscenely out-of-place neoclassicism and bland glass boxes?

  27. TB says:

    Johnny boi,

    A variant of that quote, “there is only good art and bad art” has been attributed to both Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. When asked what is JAZZ, they said there is just two kinds of music, good and bad.

    Contrary to what you say (“a work follows the principals of good design”), they are pointing out there is no formula or set of principles to guide you to the promised land. And that is just what good music and art has done over years — disproved every attempt to find a systematic solution to the question.

    Regarding the politics…. We should be clear this comes from the developer. Not me. This building is really too much of mess to carry a message.

  28. PG1946 says:

    It’s kitsch and does violence to the classical principles its creators purport to honor. This is not question of modernism versus historicism, it’s just overwrought, malproportioned, and overly fussy, doing the execrably ugly 1000 N. Water Street and 100 E. Wisconsin Avenue one better–or, rather, one worse. In classical architecture and in the 18th and early 19th-century architecture which it inspired, columns and domes are as much functional as ornamental: The columns in front of Jefferson’s Rotunda at the University of Virginia–itself inspired by the Pantheon of ancient Rome–support the porch and pediment of the building; the dome is the functional roof and ceiling of the central room of the building. the building is also symmetrical, as is required by classical architectural principles. The columns and dome on the Hammes building are pasted-on ornaments that have nothing to do with the shape or function of the building–and they are crudely designed as well.
    It is one of those now out-of-style (in cities, if not in the outer suburbs–cf. Bay Shore Town Center) post-modernist excrescences originally inspired by the architects Robert Venturi and Denis Scott Brown’s influential “Learning from Las Vegas,” which posited that the most popular and preferred commercial buildings were those that were “decorated sheds,’that is, plain wood and masonry boxes that have whatever ornament the developer may desire pasted on. Venturi and Brown’s own buildings were rather plain and not aggressively unattractive, but speculative developers and their hired architects, inspired by the authors, visited excrescences upon the world that are now generally seen as eyesores and which, because of poor choice of materials and slipshod construction, age poorly when exposed to the elements in Northern cities. They are all poor imitations of their older predecessors–just as 100 E. Wisconsin is a burlesque of the landmark Pabst Building that stood on the site before it was stripped of its ornament. The Hammes building, at least as it appears in the painting, is another such burlesque. I’m not sure that any building on the Park East site is better than an empty lot; some aggressively ugly structure can make the site worse than it was before. I suppose that one cannot argue taste, but if one looks at the juxtaposition of the Hammes building and the Jefferson rotunda, above, one would be hard-pressed to argue the aesthetic superiority of the former building to the latter.

  29. Virginia Small says:

    All this debate about the building but no mention of the architect in the article or comments? These buildings don’t design themselves. (Or do they?) Lots of name checks about Mr. Hammes and Mr. Jefferson (too many to count). Who’s name is on this design? Who deserves credit–or blame–depending on one’s perspective?

    By the way, much of Jefferson’s design achievement was as a landscape designer.That included planning more modest buildings and spaces than at Monticello grounds—which took wonderful advantage of that hilltop site—including the kitchen garden. Some of the coolest things he designed for UVA was modest faculty housing and other structures that were part of a“an cademical village,” a concept he invented. That included some lovely curving walls that seem unexpectedly modern. The scale of these structures was smaller, not the grand buildings for which Jefferson is most known.

    Overall, Jefferson seemed to reflect Alexander Pope’s concept: “Consult the genius of the place in all…”

  30. Joe says:

    The building was designed by Dalgiesh Gilpin Paxton out of Virginia. While they appear to specialize in classical architecture, this is by far their gaudiest, most out-of-place work to date.

    The best part? Hammes is only taking the top 2 floors of this monstrosity; they are seeking other tenants to fill the rest. So they aren’t even building this to suit their own needs.

  31. TB says:

    Virginia, Joe is right. If you to their website you see this building is an outlier.

    The reason I didn’t include the architect’s name (which I usually do) is this is a developer building. That is, it’s what the client wanted, not a true collaboration.

  32. TB says:

    It’s also worth remembering the modest size of Jefferson’s buildings had something to do with the construction and materials of his time.

  33. Ben says:

    If this building is going to be such an eyesore and dertriment to MKE, I suggest the critics organize and protest its construction for the greater good of all Milwaukeeans.

  34. Virginia Small says:

    Thanks Joe and Tom. Unfortunately, often by the time projects approach the public-review stage it’s too late for concerns of neighbors and other citizens to have much impact. This also goes for larger issues about trying to preserve quality of place, “cultural landscapes,” human scale, beauty, etc.

    Sometimes it’s necessary to try to proactively build consensus about what’s important to a community–and what people want to avoid. Maybe Milwaukeeans could see how citizens in other cities are playing meaningful advisory roles about development projects. Few neighborhoods warrant the creation of an architectural review board, such as for the Third Ward, but their are other ways to proactively address these issues.

  35. TB says:

    No No No…. VIRGINIA

    I don’t want some committee approving architecture, or the community for that matter.
    BORING. You will stop some bad buildings but good ones as well.
    When you politicize taste or art you end up with Mequon or worse.

    As I noted in the article, the great thing about cities is no one is in charge.

  36. Virginia Small says:

    You really think no one’s in charge? These decisions ARE being are made by the CC and Plan Commission, though sometimes by default or rubber-standing.

    It’s not just about committees. It’s about people engaging and sharing ideas about their community and its future. One reason Brady Street has weathered ongoing change so well is that people have made it their business to think about preserving specific qualities within the neighborhood, some of which relate to scale and preservation of buildings and such. But it’s also been to actively pursuing positive changes like making it bike and pedestrian friendly. Sure, it’s sometimes messy but people don’t feel powerless.

    A Minneapolis city official told me that almost every neighborhood in the city has a neighborhood group, and there are other people organized to address general issues such as streets. It’s one of the most livable cities in the country—and #1 for parks. I’m not talking about more bureaucracy but rather citizens engaging positively, not just making a fuss about when it’s too late. And I’m not just talking about design of buildings.

  37. TB says:

    The problem is that review boards only play defense. They may prevent something like the Hammes HQ but promote homogeneity and discriminate against new ideas. Look at the results. Mequon is what happens when you just play defense. Or the Third Ward for that matter, the Klimpton hotel. Review Boards have no offense. All you will get is what are called “background buildings”.

    To put it another way I don’t you deciding what is a good building, or anyone else for that matter.

  38. Tim says:

    Tom B, that’s just lazy and privileged to say there shouldn’t be any standards. Where you live & where you critique MAY benefit as you describe but most places would not. Glaringly bad buildings & designs would be dropped in communities that the market will decide, don’t deserve any better.

    It’s like people that argue against zoning, saying that it stifles things as well. In reality, it’s more of a prisoner’s dilemma… if you accept low quality designs, low quality development, that’s what you’ll get.

    “If both neighborhoods choose “inclusionary” policies, they’ll each become mixed-income, but mostly middle-class, communities. But if only one chooses “inclusionary” policies and the other chooses “exclusionary,” the “inclusionary” community will become disproportionately low-income, because it’s the only attractive, welcoming place for people who need affordable housing and social services.”

    This claptrap you keep expounding, basically saying that no one knows a good building, it’s all subjective, blah, blah, blah… is the same “no facts” crap we see now propelling fake “news” and modern “Know-Nothings” that elected Trump. You can know something is positive or negative, the world is not all grey even if there is plenty of it.

    You may be a click baiter but you are no critic.

  39. Virginia Small says:

    Tom, so you don’t like review boards and advisory committees? How about the Milwaukee County Trails Council, which seems to be a positive force for biking and other trails issues?

    Are you against neighborhood associations or BIDs? Any other type of groups pushing for this or that to make a city more liveable?

    The fact that the Bucks could demand–and receive for free–30 acres of public land, and demand to take over a block of 4th Street for private use, and meet NO resistance, indicates that citizens here have little clout–even about public assets. Heck, even businesses were loathe to try to resist being cannibalized because they feared being blackballed. I seriously doubt that would ever happen in Madison. In MPLS, people are still up in arms that the Vikings will get first dibs on part of a large new park.

    I agree it’s often not worth quibbling over this or that building, even an ugly arena. But it may be worth it for some people to engage more deeply about issues they care about.

  40. Cassandra says:

    Dear Tom,
    Virginia wrote: “Few neighborhoods warrant the creation of an architectural review board, such as for the Third Ward, but their are other ways to proactively address these issues.”
    This is very specifically saying NO to “some committee approving architecture, or the community for that matter” and suggesting finding ways to improve quality OTHER than by setting up committees or communities to approve plans.

  41. Cassandra says:

    [Can’t find a way to edit my previous post]
    i.e. … I think “proactively addressing” means suggesting finding ways OTHER than by playing defense. We can create ways for the community to engage that are playing offense, not defense.

  42. Virginia Small says:

    Agree with Cassandra. Citizens in cities of all sizes are having positive impacts by engaging up front, not just defensively.
    Some leading cities in that vein include Austin, Boston, Denver, Madison, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Portland and Seattle.

    Milwaukeeans do have some tools, such as creating a historic district and land-use plans for neighborhoods/districts (mandated by state law through the efforts of Madison-based 1000 Friends of Wisconsin). Some neighborhoods have neighborhood associations or initiatives. Neighbor and business groups have impacted changes to specific streets including S. 2nd and S. 5th Streets.

    No one can do anything to mandate creativity (in anything) but people can develop guiding principles about what is valued and potential visions. Bay View is one neighborhood wrestling with these issues.

  43. TB says:

    Tim, I am not against zoning….. just against committees determining artistic standards.

    But codes are not the magic bullet either, as former planner Peter Park maintained. First of all,
    there are always variances, which the Hammes building will get. And a poor city has a very hard
    time turning downs increases in their tax base.

    Meanwhile, many of the signature buildings in Milwaukee would never have gotten through
    committees or the zoning of the time for that matter.

  44. VS says:

    “…many of the signature buildings in Milwaukee would never have gotten through
    committees or the zoning of the time for that matter.”

    TB, sounds like some intriguing sagas…Can you share some info about how those projects actually got built despite the zoning of the era etc? That would make a fascinating column.

  45. TB says:

    Cassandra and Virginia,

    What you are saying sounds good. Just show me an example where it works.


  46. VS says:

    Besides the other cities and local examples mentioned above, Walnut Way is doing proactive work in Walnut Hill. Also folks in Avenues West. The Johnsons Park renovation involved lots of community engagement, coordinated by Center for Resilient Cities.

    Citizens and businesses also successfully waged a far-reaching effort to kill the ill-advised Pabst City “entertainment complex” project a decade ago that would have demolished most of the historic Pabst buildings and flooded the entertainment market. It was wrong on every front and at least one of the planned “anchors” (Game Works) went belly up since then. When that folly died, a more creative, sustainable and community-oriented mixed-used project emerged, incrementally and with multiple players.

    Of course, the Bucks are building a similar cookie-cutter entertainment complex with virtually no community input–but that deal is sealed and there’s no point wasting any thought about any of it. At least the CC kept ownership of 4th St. so it can be reopened if the pedestrian mall fails–as all others have done in dead zones have. But even engaged citizens probably would not have been able to avert that railroading.

    When Peter Park spoke at MU last year, he said that good community engagement was essential. I don’t think he meant just check-the-box efforts. I’m sure he could offer some examples.

  47. SteveM says:

    Well,one thing is for sure…many, many people will stop outside of this building while it rises. Good press or bad, it will surely gather lots of attention. Looks and sounds like a ton of free advertising for the firm.

  48. A signature building that violates the blending principle in Urbanism, when people say a building is out of scale with its context, neighborhood.

    An obvious example would be the Empire State building in New York or the former 1st Wisconsin towner (the America Bank building). When they were built, both towered over their respective cities.

    Nor would this Landmark building (the boathouse on Cambridge street on the eastside) survive a review panel.

    PS…. sure community input is important… I am just pointing out that great cities are more random than we think when we develop so-called “design principles”. There are good reasons for blended background buildings but when you apply the blending principle what you eventually get is mush….. Like the Klimpton. Why should a hotel like that in a really cool neighborhood be largely invisible? Because that is the way to get it through the review board.

  49. SteveM:

    My writing would be pointless if being critical about architecture ends up being “free advertising for the firm.”

    Following your logic, just about all reading would be pointless as well.

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