[Originally posted 12:55 a.m.] When Milwaukee County made a controversial deal with UW-M so it could sprawl from the East Side of Milwaukee to a proposed research park on public lands in Western Wauwatosa, saving historic buildings there by famed Milwaukee architect Alexander Eschweiler was part of plan.
I had my doubts about it in 2010:
I missed this Business Journal story when I was out of town and want to post a link to it because it shows how the proposed UWM engineering campus on the Milwaukee County Grounds has evolved.Still, in 2011:
Key point: five historic buildings on the site will be converted to graduate school housing.My first reaction is that it indicates just how misplaced is this site, and why more than ever the new school should have gone downtown.
Rehabbing the Eschweilers
This housing would be centered on the Eschweiler Campus, a group of buildings designed by Milwaukee architect Alexander Eschweiler that are collectively on the National Historic Registry. The buildings have been in disuse for many years and have fallen into a sad state of disrepair.
“They are pretty much just shells,” Gilbert said. He added that he expected about 100 housing units would be in the rehabilitated Eschweiler buildings and another 150 in new buildings on the grounds.And now, in 2012:
Four of the five historic buildings on the County Grounds in Wauwatosa would be demolished, with one building preserved, as part of Mandel Group Inc.'s latest plan to develop nearly 200 apartments on the site.But in highway-happy Wisconsin and southeastern Wisconsin, are we surprised to see that road-building through the project carries the day?
Mandel executives told members of the city Historic Preservation Commission on Thursday night that it's too costly to preserve the other red brick buildings, three of which were designed by noted architect Alexander Eschweiler.
Or that you could jam a road through the project area and call it a Parkway?
There were no hearty congratulations on the long-awaited beginning of a project that has been called the biggest and most promising in the recent history of Milwaukee – about which Real Estate Foundation Director Dave Gilbert said, "We feel we can compete with any region in the country... even Silicon Valley itself."The MilwaukeeCountyFirst blog has more of the history:
There were not even any smiles. Rather, a sort of glum realization seemed to settle over [Wauwatosa] aldermen as they saw what impact the project will really have on the County Grounds.
"The road looks really – big," Ald. Tim Hanson said after seeing the plans for the north-to-south route planned to serve the research and development center between Watertown Plank Road and Swan Boulevard.
Other aldermen echoed Hanson's feeling. The broad roadway sweeping through the Grounds suddenly looked immense on just 51 acres open to development.
But UWM Foundation designers said the road, which has tentatively been named Technology Parkway, had actually been downsized from preliminary plans – plans the aldermen had already seen – that called for two lanes in each direction.
The road now would be just one lane in each direction, but with a 5-foot bike lane on each side and an 8-foot parking lane on one side, plus a 16-foot median along much of its length. Altogether, about 58 to 60 feet wide.
When Scott Walker was swept into the office of Milwaukee County Executive, ironically as a result of a recall election, he had also promised to preserve these treasures, saying that if he were to do anything, it would be to work at having the area designated as a state park.
But as is all too often the case with Walker, what he says and what he does are two vastly different things.
Instead of filling positions in the important Economic Development Division with competent people that would be able to attract businesses to Milwaukee County, he instead filled it with campaign staffers like Robert Dennik and Tim Russell. (Yes, that is the same Tim Russell that has been arrested and charged as a result of the ongoing Walkergate investigations.)
One of the many bad things that happened from Walker’s poor decision making is that as businesses and agencies moved out of the county grounds, none moved in to take their place.
By 2006, the buildings stood empty.
The empty buildings quickly started succumbing to the weather, aided by the fact that Walker’s austerity measures prevented the county from taking any preservation or preventative measures, or even allowing the utilities to stay on. He refused even in the face of a letter written by then Wauwatosa Mayor Theresa Estness, which reminded him of his promise to split the cost of sealing the buildings in an effort to preserve them.
You can see pictures of the damage from the weather, the neglect and vandalism that has occurred over the years here and here.
Then, not satisfied with intentional neglect, and with a new conservative mayor in Wauwatosa, Jill Didier, Walker decided to break his promise completely and started courting the necessary authorities to allow the grounds to be sold to land developers.