Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Parks Plans $3 Million King Center Rehab

Repairs to community center on 15th and Vliet part of a larger investment in neighborhood improvements.

By - Nov 22nd, 2022 12:10 pm
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, 1531 W. Vliet St. Photo taken Nov. 22, 2022 by Graham Kilmer.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, 1531 W. Vliet St. Photo taken Nov. 22, 2022 by Graham Kilmer.

As part of a wide-ranging project aimed at revitalizing the King Park neighborhood, Milwaukee County Parks is planning a $3 million rehab of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, 1531 W. Vliet St.

The department is in the early stages of planning for the project. But the top goal of the project is to make critical infrastructure repairs to the center to ensure its sustainability, some of which, like a roof that badly needs replacing, won’t be obvious to the public. Though, Jim Tarantino, deputy director for parks, said there will be some money for “public-facing” investments.

The funding is from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to both the county and State of Wisconsin, including $1.5 million from the state’s allocation and another $1.5 million approved by the county’s ARPA Task Force for exterior improvements. The state funds were initially provided to the county’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which handed the money off to parks as part of the department’s larger neighborhood revitalization effort.

The community center upgrades are one piece of a much larger investment DHHS is making in the neighborhood. This includes a planned $42 million development of a new county Human Services building; and the development of 120 affordable homes for first-time homebuyers.

Tarantino said the department has largely spent 2022 figuring out how and where it can spend ARPA money. This next year, he said, “will be more of a design year and then construction will take place and be completed in 2024.”

The planning and design process for this project will likely not be as extensive as for the Kosciuszko Community Center redevelopment, which has an estimated price tag of $33.8 million. “With Kozzy we started out with an existential question of ‘Do we keep this building or do we need to build a new one?’,” he said. Parks already knows it needs to invest in the existing King Center building because of the money it has already put into it in recent years.

Some high level investments the department knows it needs to make include the aforementioned roof replacement, work to prevent water infiltration that is beginning to cause damage to the building. The project will also likely include sustainability upgrades to doors and windows that will reduce energy costs in the future. “Just to make the needed infrastructure repairs are going to be extremely costly, they always are,” he said.

But there should also be opportunities to make improvements to the exterior and aesthetics of the building, he said. One thing the department knows it needs to look at is improving the natural lighting in the structure with windows and skylights.

We absolutely want to make sure that the ARPA money is spent in a way that people feel when they see the building or when they are experiencing the building,” he said.

Tarantino said the $3 million investment has the potential to leverage additional investment from philanthropic groups and the Milwaukee Parks Foundation, which moved its offices to the King Center this fall.

“It’s not just about this project,” he said. “It’s about momentum and leveraging this to demonstrate the county’s investments so that we can keep the positivity going and keep more investment coming into King.”

Categories: MKE County, Parks, Weekly

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