Port Evicting Sea Scouts for New Tenant
Free-rent deal being canceled for undisclosed, job-creating tenant.
Milwaukee’s port director has a plan that he thinks will generate revenue, create jobs and provide enhanced access to an overlooked Lake Michigan pier.
But it comes with a catch. Port Milwaukee must terminate the no-cost lease held by a 62-year tenant, Sea Scouts Ship Invincible 299. The organization, an arm of the Boys Scouts of America, provides sailing training to people ages 14 to 20.
Tindall-Schlicht said the undisclosed new tenant would create at least 10 jobs on a one-acre site at 2452 S. Lincoln Memorial Dr. The waterfront parcel is located immediately south of the U.S. Coast Guard station, near the end of E. Russell Ave. It has two structures and storage space for the organization’s boats.
Bringing in the new tenant would also involve improving access to the Russell Avenue pier. “Most people, even those that live in Bay View, don’t know that there is public access to the pier that the port maintains,” said the port director. Between the Sea Scouts and Coast Guard sites, a sidewalk-width opening in the fence provides a path past both tenants and out onto the small pier, which offers skyline views and fishing access.
“I am excited about the potential arrangement,” said Tindall-Schlicht.
The port invoked its right to terminate the lease earlier this month, a 180-day notice requirement has it officially ending October 22nd. The organization will get a full final sailing season at the location.
Sea Scouts committee chairman Steve Smiley said the group knows other parties have been interested in the past, but it now feels “put out in the cold.”
“We are trying to gather up what we can and find a new site,” said Smiley. He said there used to be several Sea Scouts groups in the area, but almost all of them fell to the same fate currently facing group 299 – they lost their site.
“I am cautiously optimistic that the Sea Scouts will be able to find a usable site,” said Tindall-Schlicht. He said port staff would assist in the effort. “The Port of Milwaukee has been very proud to be of service to the Sea Scouts.”
Smiley said the most important site need is a space for regular meetings on the water. Equipment storage space is a bonus. He said the group is reaching out to everyone it can, including the South Shore Yacht Club and Milwaukee Community Sailing Center.
The organization’s annual report says it served 500 people last year. Smiley said a core group keeps things going, but 20 to 50 people come to the regular meetings. He reports groups, not all of which are Boy Scout troops, coming from as far away as Iowa and Illinois to be trained.
Who is the mystery tenant triggering the move? Tindall-Schlicht said he will divulge that publicly once a lease is negotiated. The 467-acre, city-owned port is largely leased to private operators. Since Tindall-Schlicht became director in 2018 the city has signed a number of high-profile leases, including with a cruise ship operator and grain exporter.
History buffs will note the Sea Scouts aren’t the first group to use the slip for education. The Naval Reserve Center docked the submarines USS Tautog and USS Cobia at the site for training. The Tautog arrived at the site in 1953 (after previously being docked with the prior reserve center site in the Historic Third Ward) and was replaced by the Cobia in 1959. A sign at the site notes that the Sea Scouts first meetings were held aboard the submarines. The Tautog was shortly thereafter sold for scrap and in 1970 the Cobia was towed to Manitowoc for use as part of a museum. A Bay View Historical Society newsletter has more on the south side neighborhood’s one-time fleet.
Have a lead on space for the Sea Scouts or want to learn more? You can email Smiley at email@example.com
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.