Supervisors Demand A Domes Plan
Parks Committee recommends pursuing historic designation. But then what?
Listing on the national register is an honorific designation; it will not result in any legal protections or mandates. But it would open up the possibility of the county accessing historic tax credits for a future domes preservation project.
Sup. Juan Miguel Martinez, authored the resolution which calls on the county to pursue historic designation. He introduced an amendment at committee adding language to the resolution that states Milwaukee County Parks shall “continue to explore additional actions intended to protect and invest in the long-term prosperity of Mitchell Park.”
Martinez said he added this language after meeting with parks leaders and that it is intended to broaden the scope of what the resolution is asking of parks. “I did take a tour of the domes with Executive Director Guy Smith and [Deputy Director] James Tarantino, recently a week ago, and it absolutely broke my heart to see the disrepair that the domes has fallen into,” he said.
Martinez sponsored the resolution along with Supervisors Dyango Zerpa and Ryan Clancy. Martinez and Zerpa told the parks committee that the move to pursue historic designation is intended to get the ball rolling on preservation of the domes, “And we can start bringing those donors out of the woodwork, we can come up with a comprehensive plan that’s going to make parks happy, that’s going to make the county happy, that’s going to make preservation happy,” Martinez said.
Given rising inflation and supply chain shortages since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the county’s Architecture and Engineering Division has begun baking 12-16% annual inflationary cost increases into all county projects. This is leading parks to conclude that the glazing repairs estimated at approximately $19 million in 2019 could hit a figure as high as $30 million, assuming work begins in 2024
But it’s not the only piece that needs repairing in the domes. As Tarantino noted, “really everything from growing plants to operating boilers to distributing water, heating the facility, everything is a challenge and everything would need to be fixed if we’re moving forward on a certain path.”
Tarantino told the committee that if parks committed to the capital improvements needed at the domes “all those costs would immediately take over our capital budget.”
Sup. Steve Taylor was the lone vote at committee against the resolution pursuing historic designation, saying he preferred to wait for cost estimates and an actionable plan. “I would like to know what the total amount is, and what the actual plan is.” he said. “And as right now we we don’t have that.”
He also questioned whether the county should still be following the 2016 policy set by the board to repair and preserve the domes, wondering whether they should be preserved as they are today.
Everyone was in agreement that the county needs a plan. “Nobody wants to see that plan more than me,” Martinez said. “I want to see the plan, I want to see what the numbers are that are going to fix the domes, that are going to fix the concrete, fix the glass the proper way.”
William Lynch, who served as chair of the domes task force, urged the committee to pursue historic designation and said the county needs to “shift its position” and stop criticizing past plans or reviewing studies and come up with a path forward.
“Studies of studies are only studies,” he said. “They don’t result in any efforts to find out whether there are partners who would work with the county to develop the park and the domes.”
Milwaukee Preservation Alliance Executive Director Jeremy Ebersole told committee members that historic designation poses “really little risk to the county” noting that it does not require the county to pursue tax credits, but merely opens up the possibility to them. He also noted that the county already paid a contractor in 2019 to work on the historic designation nomination and that it’s nearly complete.
“I think we can all agree that doing nothing is not an option,” Ebersole said. “Slow walking the issue is ultimately a death sentence to the domes.”
- MKE County: Domes Costs Shock Supervisors - Graham Kilmer - Sep 12th, 2023
- Op Ed: Don’t Despair About the Domes - Emma Rudd - Aug 16th, 2023
- MKE County: Parks Launches Mitchell Park Campaign - Graham Kilmer - Jul 31st, 2023
- MKE County: New Firms Will Study Rehab, Replacement or Demo of The Domes - Graham Kilmer - Mar 18th, 2023
- MKE County: County Begins Future Domes Study - Graham Kilmer - Feb 18th, 2023
- MKE County: Board Approves Studying Demolition, Other Options For The Domes - Graham Kilmer - Dec 16th, 2022
- Supervisor Martinez Renews Call to Fund the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory - Sup. Juan Miguel Martinez - Dec 6th, 2022
- MKE County: New Policy Would Require County To Study Demolishing The Domes - Graham Kilmer - Dec 1st, 2022
- Supervisors Applaud Decision to Advance Historic Designation for Mitchell Park Domes - Sup. Juan Miguel Martinez - Sep 23rd, 2022
- MKE County: Supervisors Demand A Domes Plan - Graham Kilmer - Sep 13th, 2022
Read more about Future of The Domes here