Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Trestle Park Will Cost $1.2 Million

Highly-anticipated Third Ward park won't be cheap, but city says costs are reasonable.

By - Jul 21st, 2017 10:22 am
Trestle Park rendering. Rendering by HGA Architects.

Trestle Park rendering. Rendering by HGA Architects.

A small park in the Historic Third Ward will come with a fairly large price tag.

Trestle Park, planned for a small plot of land and a former railroad bridge landing at 501 E. Erie St., has a $1,170,727 price tag according to Department of City Development economic development specialist Alyssa Remington.

The park is being designed by HGA Architects under the leadership of firm principal Jim Shields. It drew significant praise from the City Plan Commission in June. Plans include a hardscape portion along the former trestle and a series of natural plantings along E. Erie St.

Remington presented the highly anticipated project, and a plan to fund it using tax-incremental financing, to the board of the city’s Redevelopment Authority on Thursday. But before the board unanimously approved the project commissioner Bill Schwartz stated what had to be on a lot of minds: “$1.2 million seems like a lot of money for a small parcel.”

Remington acknowledged it was a high price at first glance, but noted that when you break down the costs a clearer picture emerges. Approximately $1 million of the project costs will go towards rehabbing and re-decking the trestle. Remington stated “the trestle itself is about 150 feet long and 40 feet wide.” She noted that compared to the cost of a linear foot of the the Milwaukee RiverWalk, which is approximately $2,000 and much narrower, the project costs are in line with other riverwalk projects.

The funding for the park will come from a tax-incremental financing district that covers E. Erie St. from the Broadway Bridge to the Erie Street Plaza. Included in that district are three condominium projects, the Marine Terminal Lofts, Hansen’s Landing, and Harbor Front buildings, that are generating $3.8 million in annual incremental revenue to pay off the district debt.

CD Smith, who is building the adjacent DoMUS apartments for the Mandel Group, will begin construction on the park as soon as they’re done with the apartment building. They’re currently using the park site as a staging area for the construction project. The city has an agreement with the Mandel Group that allows for the unique partnership with HGA and CD Smith.

The city is finalizing an agreement with the Historic Third Ward Business Improvement District to manage and maintain the park. A similar agreement exists for the Erie Street Plaza.

The financing plan will next go before the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee.


About TIF #56

Tax-incremental financing allows the city to borrow against future incremental property tax revenue in a district to fund public improvements. The Erie/Jefferson Riverwalk TIF district is the city’s 56th such distirct.

Even with the new costs for the park, the TIF district is on schedule to be paid off in 2020.

Originally created in 2004, as of 2015 the district had generated almost $123 million in incremental property values. The district, which will go up in value again when the DoMUS apartments are complete, has previously been tapped to pay for riverwalk segments in the area, a portion of the Milwaukee Streetcar, a grant to lure the REV Group to the area, the Erie Street Plaza and $14 million to pay off other under-performing TIFs.

The most recent report for the district notes that the city anticipates leveraging the district to eventually remove the iconic swing bridge.

Swing Bridge

While it’s virtually certain a train will never run through the site again, the park’s design won’t turn its back on its railroad heritage. Old railroad lights will be reused to illuminate the park. The walkways in the park, a mix of wood and concrete pavers, are being planned in a linear pattern to reflect the nature of the former railroad track running through the site.

Plans for the iconic swing bridge itself are far from materializing. In a response to a question from the City Plan Commission in June, architect Shields stated “we’re allowing the swing bridge to close and operate, even if we think it’s an unlikely scenario.” He noted that as he understands the situation the Army Corps of Engineers has given notice to Union Pacific to fix the bridge or remove it. Calli Hite, director, corporate communications at Union Pacific, told Urban Milwaukee via email “Union Pacific’s Milwaukee River swing bridge is classified as a discontinued but not abandoned part of our rail network. Last fall, we installed solar navigation lights meeting U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) specifications, and we continue to maintain the bridge in compliance with the USCG’s laws of navigation.”

More on Swing Bridge

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7 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Trestle Park Will Cost $1.2 Million”

  1. Observer says:

    With the lack of parking in this area, it would seem that the condos and apartment dwellers in the stretch of E. Erie street might be the only Milwaukeeans to utilize the $1.2 million expenditure. I’d like to learn a little more about the throwaway sentence that casually mentioned “$14 million to pay off other under-performing TIFs.”

  2. @Observer – There is a lot of parking in that area. Immediately across the street is a parking lot. There are other parking lots in both ways down Erie St. Free street parking, that is readily available outside of the major festivals, lines E. Erie St.

    As to the donor TIF status, you can read what TIFs it went to in the TIF report On the site TID summary page you can also read the summary for those TIF districts and get a sense of what went wrong or didn’t happen.

  3. Observer says:

    Thanks for your follow-up. I was not aware of the free parking. Before I retired I worked in the area when it was industrial. There was Dragg’s (Frank and Millie Draggota) Café, the Broadway Café (open at 5am), Northwestern Coffee Mills (moved ‘up north'(Swig), Mike’s and later New Mike’s (the Smoke Shack), and the Caradaro Club (a parking lot following a fire) that served the local workers and that was it. The transformation has been incredible. Our long gone adult theaters and bookstores were going to lumped in this area as it had no residents. The business owners said nimby and the 3rd Ward Association was born. Now decades later its become “the” neighborhood. As a Milwaukeean, the TIF pay-outs seems like money well spent. Thanks again.

  4. Michael says:

    How about cross walk improvements along the Riverwalk so you don’t risk your life dodging traffic while trying to walk it? It seems very silly to spend 2000 per foot, then cheap out on a stop sign or two.

  5. Eric S says:

    @Michael – That’s a very good observation. The city does a horrible job with the overall pedestrian environment and the intersections between the Riverwalk and most (all?) streets it crosses are perfect examples.

  6. @Michael – This is something the city is starting to invest in after studying the issue. My colleague Graham Kilmer covered one such investment in Schlitz Park recently.

  7. Paul Ediger says:

    As an area resident, I’m very excited to see this project become a reality. This particular area along the river has long-needed improvement. Bringing a little green and ecology will be a nice addition. I’m sure HGA will do a wonderful job.

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