Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

City Seeks To Redevelop Marcus Center Garage

RFP to redevelop 700-space parking structure is expected to be issued 'soon.'

By - Mar 28th, 2023 12:35 pm
1001 N. Water St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

1001 N. Water St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A large parking structure along a key downtown street could be redeveloped under a plan expected to be announced soon.

The Department of City Development is expected to issue a request for proposals (RFP) seeking private developers to redevelop the Marcus Performing Arts Center parking structure, 1001 N. Water St. and underlying 2.45-acre property. A DCD official, during a City Plan Commission meeting Monday afternoon, said the RFP was “going out soon.” The department, on Tuesday, said it would be released in April.

The structure is owned by the city and leased to the nonprofit Marcus Performing Arts Center, which operates its performing arts center just across the street. A skywalk across E. State St. connects the two buildings. The parking structure opened in 1970 and includes approximately 700 spaces.

The parking structure is increasingly out of step with other downtown properties. It is the sole structure on the property, which fills an entire block, and does not include any street-facing commercial space or any other activation. As a result of its design, it functionally disconnects the Water Street entertainment district to the north from the theater complex to the south.

Multiple redevelopment options have been considered for the property in the past two decades, each of which would have involved constructing replacement parking for the Marcus Center. Irgens considered an approximately 18-story office building on the site, but didn’t land tenants to advance the project and later built the 833 East building elsewhere. The Harmony Initiative, which would have included a shared facility between the Milwaukee Ballet, Medical College of Wisconsin and other office tenants, was considered for the site approximately a decade ago, but the Ballet ultimately built its own facility in the Historic Third Ward. In 2018, UW-Milwaukee architecture students studied conceptual options for a shared Milwaukee Public Museum and Betty Brinn’s Children’s Museum complex on the property, but the museums ultimately selected a site at N. 6th St. and W. McKinley Ave.

The development potential of the site could be boosted by what’s happening immediately to its west. Across N. Edison St., Madison-based The Neutral Project is pursuing a new 28-story mass timber apartment building on a river-fronting site. That project, which would be the world’s tallest mass timber building if completed today, is advancing and a one-story floral warehouse on the site was recently demolished.

The Marcus Performing Arts Center is undertaking an update of its campus. In November, the organization unveiled a reconfigured lawn on the south side of its complex, 929 N. Water St. In phases, it is also undertaking a number of internal improvements.

A new downtown plan, for which a final open house is scheduled for May 11, is expected to include the property as a catalytic site and suggest future development options said a DCD spokesperson via email. “With the Marcus Center parking lease up for renewal, the two teams came together and are working to prepare an RFP that will seek redevelopment prospects for this site,” said the spokesperson.

A representative of the Marcus Center did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.


One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: City Seeks To Redevelop Marcus Center Garage”

  1. Polaris says:

    A great development…let’s hope something is proposed that actually comes to fruition this time around. The garage site has been a potential linchpin for area development for decades. I always thought that Harmony Initiative initiative had legs, or at least hoped so. While I hope it provides a transition between north and central Water Street, I’d hate for anything developed here to be a means for the “Water Street Drinking District” to be encouraged even further south than it already is. These areas tend to grow and metastasize in municipalities with little will or imagination beyond free-flowing liquor. 😉

    That said, if you can, take a look at the 1970 ariel photo of the old new PAC with the garage still under construction.

    Cripes, talk about a catalytic project! The PAC complex look so darn white compared to the rest of the buildings, Over a quarter century+, it a lot of additional development to the area. Look at all the empty lots, parking lots (and on the river!), no Pere Marquette Park, no MGIC or Red Arrow Park, a long shuttered Blatz Brewery, and the Edision Power Plant where the Rep, Associated Bank, and St. Kate Hotel now are. Back in the day, the garage was developed without a thought to what we think of it now, 53 years in the future…

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