Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Top 10 Stories of 2018

Fiserv Forum, Komatsu, Michels, The Hop, but what surprise story took number one?

By - Dec 28th, 2018 03:30 pm
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email
Top stories from the Eyes on Milwaukee column in 2018.

Top stories from the Eyes on Milwaukee column in 2018.

It was a big year for Milwaukee real estate news. And that means it was a big year for my Eyes on Milwaukee column.

The column, whose name is a nod to urbanist Jane Jacobs and her notion of “eyes on the street,” chronicles the ever-changing Cream City. It’s Urban Milwaukee’s vehicle to capture the bricks-and-mortar changes happening to Milwaukee, from towers to murals and everything in-between.

Based on traffic, let’s look at the top 10 stories of 2018.

1. Dixon Blames Wolf Peach’s Operator for Closing

Wolf Peach. Photo by Brian Jacobson.

Wolf Peach. Photo by Brian Jacobson.

This is something that’s going to be all but forgotten with time, but for 48 hours in March this topic dominated Milwaukee news. Gina Gruenewald announced Wolf Peach, a highly-regarded farm-to-table restaurant, was closing. In an interview with Lori Fredrich, she laid blame at the foot of developer Tim Dixon who was selling the building her restaurant occupied. Dixon, in the midst of driving to St. Louis, reached Urban Milwaukee and called Grunewald’s version of events “fictional.” At the root of the issue, as confirmed by multiple sources close to the matter, was a lack of a written contract. Grunewald did not respond to multiple requests for comment. And unfortunately the truth remains ensnared in a he said, she said controversy. Read the article.

2. Bucks Won’t Play in Fiserv Arena

New Milwaukee Bucks arena and surrounding area. Rendering by Populous.

New Milwaukee Bucks arena and surrounding area. Rendering by Populous.

This article didn’t age well, as the arena is now known as the Fiserv Forum. I began my research on this April piece convinced where there’s smoke there’s fire, Fiserv was going to be the naming rights partner. FiservArena.com and FiservCenter.com were both registered (I checked FiservForum.com at the time and it was ironically available). Financial services company Fiserv had delayed announcing a new location for its headquarters, and the Milwaukee Bucks were public with the desire to land an office tenant near the arena. Bucks co-owner Wes Edens had told the media that the team was exchanging contracts with the naming rights partner. “It’s a company that’s local. It’s got a national presence.” Then I called Fiserv.

A representative quickly denied that they were the naming rights partner and I turned my story 180 degrees. Three months later the joke was on me as Fiserv was announced as the naming rights partner. How close the deal was in April we’ll likely never know, but multiple sources indicate that the deal had substantial swings on its likelihood of completion. Did I just happen to catch the deal on an off day? Read the article.

3. City Presents First Streetcar

Mayor Tom Barrett examines the first vehicle for The Hop. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett examines the first vehicle for The Hop. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

After years of debate, the first actual streetcar vehicle was delivered on March 26th. My favorite part of this article? Capturing Mayor Tom Barrett standing by himself staring into the vehicle. Read the article.

4. Streetcar Will Run on Streets Next Month

A rendering of a Brookville streetcar in Milwaukee's Third Ward. Milwaukee's streetcars will be manufactured by U.S.-based Brookville Equipment Corp.

A rendering of a Brookville streetcar in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. Milwaukee’s streetcars will be manufactured by U.S.-based Brookville Equipment Corp.

Anticipation for The Hop was a dominant news narrative for much of the spring. This article, a precursor to the one just before it, announced that the first vehicle had been shipped from Pennsylvania was making its way to Milwaukee. Testing was scheduled to begin in April. Read the article.

5. Multiple Tower Groundbreakings in 2018

1550 N. Prospect Ave. Renderings

1550 N. Prospect Ave. Renderings

This article seems a bit comical in hindsight. I reported a presentation from Department of City Development Commissioner Rocky Marcoux before a Common Council committee that now seems to be wildly optimistic. Marcoux told the committee in April that he expected The Couture, a lakefront apartment tower, to break ground in October. It’s looking more and more like the project is going to happen, but at this point it seems likely for early 2019. Marcoux also told the committee that a Johnson Controls lakefront tower was still a possibility, but was on the backburner for the evolving conglomerate. That still seems to be the case, at best. Finally, Marcoux told the committee developer Chris Houden‘s 1550 on Prospect apartment tower would break ground in August. That didn’t happen either. Read more.

6. Streetcar Suffers First Collision

A streetcar passing the location of the collision. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A streetcar passing the location of the collision. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

I broke the news that The Hop, Milwaukee’s streetcar system, was involved in its first collision on October 9th. A driver opened their door in front of the vehicle, but was not ticketed by the Milwaukee Police Department. The streetcar was virtually unharmed in the incident, same with the inattentive driver’s vehicle. Not a big story. For the past few months, I’ve heard numerous people twist the incident and a similar one that happened days later into serious incidents where the streetcar operator was at fault and serious damage was done. It’s bound to happen at some point, but nothing could be further from the truth today. Read the article.

7. City’s First Mass Timber Building Planned

New Land's timber office building. Rendering by Korb + Associates Architects.

New Land’s timber office building. Rendering by Korb + Associates Architects.

New Land Enterprises is planning to build a seven-story office building on N. Plankinton Ave., which is news, but not top 10 news. The real story here is that the company intends to use modern mass timber, a fire-resistant, engineered wood product, instead of steel or concrete. The new technology promises to shorten construction times and be substantially more environmentally friendly than other options, and developer Tim Gokhman also believes it’s going to yield a competitive advantage from how attractive exposed wood it is. The company is also seeking to build an even bigger mass timber apartment building in East Town. Read the article.

8. City Advances Streetcar Extension Plans

4th and Wisconsin Streetcar Rendering

4th and Wisconsin Streetcar Rendering

Funded by a federal grant, the city undertook an extensive land-use study regarding streetcar extensions to Bronzeville and Walker’s Point. The project, which was completed in October, drew substantial interest when the city announced additional public hearings where renderings of the planned changes would be introduced. Read the article.

9. America’s Largest Urban Manufacturing Proposal

Komatsu Campus Plan. Rendering from City of Milwaukee/Komatsu.

Komatsu Campus Plan. Rendering from City of Milwaukee/Komatsu.

The most recent story on our list, the title of this piece relies on City Plan Commission testimony from Komatsu surface mining president John Koetz. The company, recently known as Joy Global, is proposing to build a $285 million factory and office building in the Harbor District and relocate its suburban West Milwaukee operations to the building. “It’s arguably the most complex project I’ve worked on in all my years in city government,” said Marcoux. The project was approved by the council in late December. Read the article.

10. Streetcar Starts Testing Across the Route

Late night streetcar test. Video by Warren Johnston.

Late night streetcar test. Video by Warren Johnston.

Sometimes waking up and scrolling through Facebook pays dividends. This was one of those cases. The Hop made its maiden voyage across its entire route in the middle of the night on June 18th. Bartender Warren Johnston was outside My Office on N. Milwaukee St. and caught the unannounced trip on his phone shortly after midnight, sharing it on Facebook. Read the article and see the video.

Honorable Mentions

A few favorites that didn’t make the top 10 when it comes to traffic, but were exceptionally newsworthy or enjoyable to write.

  1. Illinois Blocking Amtrak Expansion
  2. $750 Million to Replace Lead Pipes
  3. Bay View Proposal Gets Smaller, Shorter
  4. Downtown Bridges Cause Mounting Traffic
  5. Huge Michels Deal Gets No Direct Subsidy
  6. Bucks Open Fiserv Forum

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us