8 Options for Domes Presented
Public input sought on options offered by task force, but costs of each unknown.
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.”
“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.
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