Top 10 Stories of 2018
Fiserv Forum, Komatsu, Michels, The Hop, but what surprise story took number one?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A few favorites that didn’t make the top 10 when it comes to traffic, but were exceptionally newsworthy or enjoyable to write.
- Illinois Blocking Amtrak Expansion
- $750 Million to Replace Lead Pipes
- Bay View Proposal Gets Smaller, Shorter
- Downtown Bridges Cause Mounting Traffic
- Huge Michels Deal Gets No Direct Subsidy
- Bucks Open Fiserv Forum
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