Alderman Wants Debate On Proposed Third Ward Theater
But has Ald. Robert Bauman already lost the chance to create such a forum?
A proposal to build a new two-venue theater complex in the Historic Third Ward might get a public hearing after all. A rezoning request is pending before the Common Council. Without such a change, the project can be built without a formal public hearing.
“This is a humble attempt at getting a little more public input on a significant project,” said Alderman Robert Bauman, who has proposed the zoning change, in an interview. He represents the area where the complex would be built.
The exterior design aspects of the proposal were first reviewed by the Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board, which Bauman chairs, last Wednesday. Attendees included individuals affiliated with competing venues The Rave and the Pabst Theater Group, but none spoke. Nor did the board take a formal vote. At the meeting, Bauman said a zoning change appeared to be the only way to ensure a truly public review. With no formal application submitted, Bauman said it appeared to be a race to see who could apply first.
On Monday he admitted he might have already lost.
But Bauman would still like to see the area’s zoning change, even if the development is allowed to move forward as is. The site, which long held a factory, is currently zoned “Industrial – Mixed.” The flexible definition is often used for areas that are deindustrializing, but the Third Ward is now past that point.
Bauman still intends to pursue a change to the C9 zoning designation and the default permission of theaters. He noted the difference in scales between smaller venues commonly used by nonprofits and large concert venues. “The impacts can vary dramatically,” said Bauman. “There may be more of this stuff coming down the line.”
As currently configured, the proposal requires an easement as it would not face a publically-platted street. While what appears to be a city street runs north-south just to the east of the site, it’s technically a private road on the festival grounds that MWF leases from the City of Milwaukee’s Harbor Commission.
The recorded easement would in part legally ensure police, fire and other emergency services can get to the landlocked parcel. But it would also serve to define what is the legal front of the parcel and building, which would govern its zoning compliance for things like glazing and egress. Port director Adam Tindall-Schlicht, at a port meeting Wednesday morning, said he didn’t expect the board to consider such a request until April.