Is Bucks Live Block Good Urbanism?
Council committee debates merits of new building for Old World Third St., gateway to arena.
The Milwaukee Bucks, Rinka Chung Architecture and members of the Common Council have found themselves at odds over the design of one of the smallest pieces of the smallest building at the new arena complex. Yet, despite its small scale, all parties agree it’s an important site in the creation of the Deer District.
The team, through its real-estate affiliate, came before the council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee Tuesday morning to secure approval for their plans to replace a portion of a proposed beer garden with a one-story building for their Live Block connector. The connector is intended to allow visitors to easily go from N. Old World Third St. to the arena and “Live Block” entertainment center complex on N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. (formerly N. 4th St.).
The site, located at 1129-1135 N. Old World Third St., would include a large pedestrian passageway and new building in between two taverns, Ugly’s Pub and The Loaded Slate. The 2,045-square-foot, two-tenant building would be geared towards food and beverage tenants.
“It’s a really important site because it’s the connector to the existing urban fabric around the site,” said Rinka Chung project director Audry Grill.
The committee had unanimously endorsed the team’s plan for the site in November, before the building was included. And while the concept of adding this building isn’t drawing opposition, its proposed design drew derision from members of the zoning committee.
Alderman Nik Kovac sees things differently. He compared the half-floor design feature to something found in a suburban, fast food restaurant: “In general I feel like buildings should be as high as they actually are… I would rather you did do a two-story building.”
“He’s right, it reads Mayfair Collection all over it with the paneling,” added committee chair Ald. Jim Bohl referencing the new auto-centric shopping center in Wauwatosa. Bohl said he liked the large glass windows and charred wood paneling on the building itself, but thought the steel paneling was too dark.
Department of City Development planning manager Vanessa Koster said DCD supports the steel paneling. “We thought it was a high-quality material that was being explored,” she said, before noting that the city’s zoning code does not regulate color.
“It has a really interesting texture when you walk up next to it,” added Grill.
Kovac asked about the potential for a rooftop deck to alleviate the issue. But the Bucks don’t see that as a good fit. “With the tenants we want to bring in, rooftop access doesn’t make sense,” said team vice president Alex Lasry.
“[Tenants] could be anywhere from a carryout food company to a bar or restsaurant,” said Lasry. He cited Insomnia Cookies an example of the type of tenant who could occupy the space, but wouldn’t want a rooftop deck. And while Insomnia likely isn’t one of them, Lasry says the team does already have interested tenants for the two stalls.
The building and passageway is a gateway into a covered beer garden that borders the entertainment center buildings and connects with the plaza at the arena’s front door. “Everything that we’re trying to do here is to make it easy for people to have a good time,” said Lasry. He told the committee that the team is exploring ways to allow patrons to bring drinks into the open air spaces and go between different bars, even the ones the Bucks won’t have a stake in.
Lasry’s response: “We think if you actually just put a one-story building here, it wouldn’t look as good with the heights of the building surrounding it.”
After a substantial debate on the measure, Rinka Chung project architect Jessica Timmer came forward and added that the firm actually did revise the design a few days ago. The firm didn’t remove the steel paneling, but instead of terminating it abruptly had it turn the corner and run to the rear of the building to better wrap the rooftop equipment.
After learning of changes to the paneling to turn the corner and better frame the roof, Kovac interjected “that’s better.”
He concluded his remarks by noting that cornices aren’t uncommon on buildings, but aren’t usually found on one-story buildings. He contended the more urban thing to do would be a two-story building.
Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs added, “I would just say in the future, lead with the latest, that might have saved us a few minutes.”
But the committee ultimately gave unanimous approval to the project. The team promised to have updated renderings submitted to the city in time for the full Common Council meeting.
The team wants to get to work on the project quickly, with Grill stating that the exterior is scheduled for completion on October 1st.
Earlier Connector Renderings and Site Plans
Live Block Plans
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