Graham Kilmer

8 Options for Domes Presented

Public input sought on options offered by task force, but costs of each unknown.

By - May 25th, 2018 01:55 pm
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The Domes. Photo courtesy of the Park People of Milwaukee.

The Domes. Photo courtesy of the Park People of Milwaukee.

The county task force working on the future of the Mitchell Park Domes is preparing a public outreach blitz for the month of June where they will proffer eight options for the future of the horticultural conservatory.

In 2017, Milwaukee County hired ConsultEcon, a Boston-based economic consulting firm, to develop a report for the task force detailing what can be done with the Domes moving into the future. ConsultEcon gave the task force a slew of options for moving forward in December, and in the intervening period, the task force has developed eight potential options for the future of the Domes. The costs for all items are speculative, as no detailed planning has been completed.

Now into the second phase of their work, public outreach, the task force will begin soliciting feedback from the community. And the eight options are:

1) Do Nothing

This option would likely extend the life of the Domes for only another five years. This would mean the county doesn’t undertake deferred maintenance, water continues to infiltrate the structure, and utility costs will be excessive. Essentially, any money the county would have for new things in the Domes would go towards keeping them as they currently sit. Based upon the ConsultEcon report, this option would eventually lead to the demolition of the Domes.

2) Demolish the Domes, Keep the Greenhouses

This second option would cost about $10 to $15 million. And could cause parts of the horticultural collection in the Domes to be lost, if the county doesn’t then construct another building for them or move them to another proper location.

3) Addressing the Deferred Maintenance

Simply undertaking maintenance the Domes already needs would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 to $30 million. This would have little impact on the current attendance for the domes, but could add 25 years or more to the life of the structure.

4) Targeted Investments

This is where the plans start to get big. This option includes addressing the deferred maintenance along with additional capital investment. It would cost $40 to $50 million dollars, paid for by the county, private partnerships, and community investment. It too would add, at the very least, another 25 years to the domes. And it’s estimated it could grow attendance by 250,000.

These investments could include new additions like classrooms or meeting space, an improved or expanded guest entrance, retail space and food service, increased parking, and more programmatic options.

5) EcoDome Destination

The EcoDome idea would include both deferred maintenance and targeted investments. But it would greatly enhance the ecological experience. The plan would create a new immersive Ecological Habitat Zone, it would add canopy walks, aquariums, live animals, expanded outdoor gardens, a children’s garden and a destination restaurant. All of this would cost about $70 to $95 million.

6) Adventure Dome

The adventure dome would do some of the same things as plans for an EcoDome call for, but it would eschew some of the ecological attractions for things like zip lines, climbing structures, a playground and water play features. This too would cost about $70 to $95 million.

7) Hybrid Redevelopment EcoDome Destination Attraction

This option is the same as the EcoDome, except it calls for razing the show dome and replacing it with a new structure. This new building would be the EcoDome Destination Attraction and it would have a longer lifespan than the current show dome. And it would cost about $70 to $95 million.

8) Hybrid Redevelopment Adventure Dome Destination

This one is just like the previous option, except it incorporates the adventure dome additions, and should cost between $70 and $95 million.

Repair Costs Still Uncertain

As the task force plans its public outreach initiative, some members were worried they still haven’t received information about the feasibility of repair methods. A request for proposals has recently gone out looking for an engineering firm to experiment with methods for repairing the domes. Once this work is completed, the county and the task force will have a clearer picture of how much these repairs will cost.

Ian Bautista, executive director of the Clark Square Neighborhood Initiative, said he feels like the public input process is being rushed, “given the fact that there’s still some engineering information forthcoming.”

Allyson Nemec, a principal architect with Quorum Architects, said the timeline was set so they could have input before the Fourth of July, but she noted the summer may reduce public involvement and input. This could push the community outreach phase to September. Which would push getting a plan funded back another fiscal year.

“Phase three is not a short phase,” said William H. Lynch, chair of the task force. Undertaking the detailed analysis of the options, even once narrowed down by public input, will require several months, he said.

Lynch said the group could look at the public input process as “a continuing process” into July and beyond. “Because we’ve got good reasons to continue to engage in that process,” he added.

Task Force members generally agreed that this public outreach phase is crucial. How the public responds to the options presented will weigh greatly on how the task force makes its recommendations to the county.

“To me, this engagement process is the most important part of our work as a task force,” Bautista said.

The Domes

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Categories: People, Real Estate

10 thoughts on “8 Options for Domes Presented”

  1. Gregg says:

    I’m curious, is there anyway possible that the domes can be rebuilt elsewhere (downtown near the lakefront) if an individual with the cash and is willing to donate say $100 million dollars for this to happen?

  2. Jim M says:

    The County Parks Dept made a very short sighted decision when the State purchased the old Cnty Greenhouse location for the Zoo freeway expansion. By spending the entire amount it received building the over the top greenhouses attached to a doomed and crumbling concrete building they have put the Cnty in a no win situation. That money could have been used to start a new Domes location like Boerner Botanical Gardens or the Zoo or Lake Front. Visit Minneapolis/St Paul and look what they have for zoo and conservatory offerings.

    This is a textbook example of :

    Sunk-Cost Fallacy
    (also known as: argument from inertia, concorde fallacy, finish the job fallacy)

    Description: Reasoning that further investment is warranted on the fact that the resources already invested will be lost otherwise, not taking into consideration the overall losses involved in the further investment.

    or here:

    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/sunk-cost-fallacy

    Key words in the article to watch? “And it would cost about $70 to $95 million.”

  3. Keith says:

    Option 3

  4. GRNDPAKWH says:

    We are members of the Domes Friends group and I strongly support a continuance of a horticultural conservatory in Milwaukee. We found the money to build a baseball stadium and a basketball stadium using the phrase that Milwaukee must have these to remain a first class city. Let me use the same phrase, Milwaukee must have a conservatory to remain a first class city.

  5. steve says:

    Amen to responders keith and grandpk. This is a classic case of short term thinking fallacy. The domes have been and landmark, destination, retreat and all – around great place to visit or bring visitors to for 50 years long. There will be zip lines and
    climbing walls and other schlocky activities everywhere in our future, but only 1 or ZERO iconic Milwaukee Domes.

    Agree with grandpk that we dump money into stadiums and arenas under the mistaken assumption that they
    are huge money makers for us, the local taxpayers, and require a botanical gem to fit the same commercial model.

    How often do we visit Miller Park on a frigid sunny winter day? Just when we most need it, the Domes are there!

  6. John Hagen says:

    Option 4 would be best.
    Three in a pinch but 4 is where it’s at.
    5 – 8 are gilding the Lilly.

  7. Jeremy says:

    Please, stop the lunacy. Read the Public Policy Forum report on replacing the Safety Building:
    https://publicpolicyforum.org/research/jury-out-options-financing-new-milwaukee-county-justice-center

    Where in God’s name is $70-90 million going to come from if they can’t afford to replace a 1930’s building? A special referendum? The Domes crack 225,000 visitors, Brewers 2.5-3.0 million, the Bucks 650,000.
    https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/subscriber-only/2017/09/29/top-milwaukee-area-special-attractions.html

    Even IF money was to be spent on a conservatory it should ALWAYS include the complete removal of the Domes. They lose a dollar for every person that attends a Bucks game. http://county.milwaukee.gov/Domes/FAQs-about-the-Domes.htm

    Additionally, you’ve got the County Board worried about the Farmer’s market that spends $13k for an entire season while the infrastructure of the building falls in around them. Citizens of Milwaukee tore the first conservatory down and you don’t hear anyone whining about its demise, the same can be done here.

  8. Waleed Nabeel says:

    Need to move the domes to a better location connecting the general public and visitors near the lakefront site which makes it more sense to grow number of people visiting the domes.

  9. Troll says:

    GRNDPK, if you can convince LeBrond James, Clayton Kershaw, and all the other talented athletes to play in the Domes then you to can collect state taxes to fund your beloved dome.

  10. scrp says:

    Where is this money coming from to prop these things up after the initial spend? The county is broke!!! They can barely afford their employees and half of these plans will include more employees. This is the same county that “needed” parking meters in parks to close a budget deficit. More than half of these plans are ludicrous. Stop adding politicians to the pay roll and add development specialist, people that actually know how to make and raise money not just spend it. The county resources are so under utilized as is.

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