Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

MATC Will Use Vacant Lot For Training Program

Partnership with city and We Energies will help train electrical line mechanics.

By - May 2nd, 2023 02:55 pm
Future site of MATC's lineworker training program at N. 30th St. and W. North Ave. Image from Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee.

Future site of MATC’s lineworker training program at N. 30th St. and W. North Ave. Image from Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee.

A vacant, environmentally-contaminated lot at W. North Ave. and N. 30th St. would be cleaned up and repurposed as a training ground for a highly sought-after career under a new proposal from a broad array of community partners.

Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) would repurpose much of the site, and a nearby property owned by We Energies, into a second location for its electrical power distribution line mechanic program.

The 30-credit technical diploma program, which runs annually from August through May, involves training students to repair electrical equipment, climb poles and drive heavy equipment.

“When they complete this program, they are essentially earning $70,000 per year,” said MATC vice president of college advancement and external communications Laura Bray to the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee on Tuesday. She said with experience, they can earn more than $100,000.

The training program is so highly in demand that 40% of its students come from outside of MATC’s service area. But Bray said another issue is that the current location, on the college’s Mequon campus, is virtually inaccessible to individuals without access to a car. Employers have noticed the transportation issue, with We Energies’ offering usage of a portion of its Metro North service yard just west of the city-owned site as a more central training site. But the utility’s site, 3100 W. North Ave., can’t host the entire program.

MATC approached the city about the need for a longer site that could house training powerlines, a request that turned out to be fortuitous.

The city had a site at 30th and North, which it had been trying to sell for 15 years, and was just next to the We Energies site. But environmental contamination, stemming from past industrial use and a former gas station, and the 2.15-acre property’s layout made it undesirable for redevelopment. It also abuts the 30th Street rail line, which operates in a trench in that area.

“It is a very challenging, narrow property,” said Dave Misky, assistant director of the Redevelopment Authority of the City Milwaukee (RACM). But long and narrow is what MATC needs.

RACM also found two uses for the remaining portions of the site.

The property is in an area where the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) is seeking to reduce flooding and sewer overflows, and the sewerage district will leverage its Fresh Coast Protection Partnership program to pay for stormwater retention infrastructure on the eastern half of the site.

A community green space, led by Metcalfe Park Community Bridges, will be designed and constructed at the southern end of the site in 2024.

MMSD will maintain the green infrastructure improvements for the first five years, with RACM required to maintain the infrastructure for an additional six years. Construction on those improvements is to begin this summer.

The community green space is an updated version of what was originally planned as “30th & North Park.”

“We fully support this project,” said the Metcalfe Park group’s deputy director Melody McCurtis.

“The proposal in front of you is a really amazing confluence of partners,” said Bray. MATC hopes to train its first class of 14 students starting this fall and then expand to a full complement of 18 next year, matching the Mequon program.

“Thanks for being creative and making this happen,” said Alderman Michael Murphy.

“This is not an easy project,” said Misky. He praised his coworkers Tory Kress and Lauren Brady for working on the deal for two years.

“There is a lot of money being brought into this,” he said. The project has an $828,000 budget, which includes $260,000 from RACM’s revolving loan brownfield cleanup fund, $224,000 from MATC’s foundation, $155,000 of in-kind support from We Energies, $100,000 in future fundraising for the community space and $64,000 from a RACM-led Environmental Protection Agency grant. MATC’s buildout represents approximately half of the project’s costs.

Area Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II is in full support of the three project components. “These are the people that when your lights go out, they go out to repair them,” he said. The alderman said he was pleased to see productive uses put forth; earlier proposals the city received were for parking lots.

His colleagues joined him in signing on as co-sponsors, but two called for more involvement from We Energies. Council members Robert Bauman and JoCasta Zamarripa said the utility could be contributing more to the public college given that it was the beneficiary of the training program.

In addition to contributing its resources towards environmental remediation, the city will license the site to MATC for $1. It’s an unusual legal structure designed to avoid state regulations and approvals resulting from the college being a state entity.

The full council is scheduled to vote on the proposal on May 9. The RACM board endorsed the proposal in March.

Legally speaking, the lot is three parcels: 3001 W. Meinecke Ave., 3010 W. North Ave. and 3014 W. North Ave. That delineation, an artifact of the past users, is impossible to see today except in the city’s property records.

The majority of the site has been vacant since the early 1970s, when it was cleared for the never-built Park West Freeway.

Kress said the site’s cleanup this summer would involve two “hot spot excavations” and taking contaminated soil offsite. A clay cap would be installed atop the site. “It’s a typical site we have in the city, particularly in the 30th Street Corridor,” said Misky of the contamination.


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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: MATC Will Use Vacant Lot For Training Program”

  1. matimm says:

    Thank you for reporting on this story.

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