Trestle Park Will Cost $1.2 Million
Highly-anticipated Third Ward park won't be cheap, but city says costs are reasonable.
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.”
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.
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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