Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bold Site Idea For UWM School Of Freshwater Science

The proposal:

Rebuilding/adapting the County's under-utilized Downtown Transit Center at E. Michigan Ave. and Lincoln Memorial Dr. that is across the street from the Art Museum, and also the under-utilized O'Donnell parking structure.

That would put it on primo real estate within yards of the lakefront, but would get it off the Pieces of Eight site, and all the lakefront/Public Trust Doctrine legal/environmental/aesthetic messiness that new construction at the lakeshore would bring.

And it would link together water and transit: if you are serious about environmentalism, and attacking global warming, this would make UWM a pioneer and rebrand the city's downtown and lakefront.

Congratulations to the proposal author, Milwaukee County Supervisor Gerry Broderick.


Joseph Thomas Klein said...

Sell the whole builing to UWM.

A new transit center should be integrated into the intermodal station. Put up a cheap bus terminal in on of the parking lots or empty lots. WISDOT could share offices with the RTA and SEWPC at the same merged location.

I never could figure out what they where thinking when they built that white elephant on the lakefront.

Mr. Broderick should also get some backbone and push for the engineering school to be downtown. He may think the effort as quixotic, but it is the right thing to do.

Dave Reid said...

Oh Jim we've been on the page so often but I guess not on this one. I think the Pieces of Eight site is a great one. The purpose of the facility fits fine with the public trust doctrine as it is public and it is about protecting our fresh water. Further, done well it could really enhance the space. Finally, it is likely School of Freshwater Sciences will need direct access to the Lake Michigan, so it makes sense that it would actually be on the lake.

James Rowen said...

I know, Dave. This is a tough one.
And to Joe: The transit center was a sop to transit, as it sort of (sic) replaced the downtown train station torn down in the name of modernity.

I think UWM is stepping into a major mess if it tries to build on the Pieces of Eight site.

Joseph Thomas Klein said...

Sorry about that mucky post. I should never write before eating breakfast or lunch.

Most of Milwaukee's rail STATIONS were clustered between 6th and 3rd, Michigan and Clybourn. These included the North Shore, the Milwaukee Electric interurban terminal (The largest in the US), and the Milwaukee Road Depot. A location in that vicinity would have been a good choice for a transit center. Only the C&NW station was on the lakefront, in part because the mainline snaked up the Lakefront, then jogged east to follow the Milwaukee River north.

Here is an old postcard of the depot before the Socialists put in the landfill:

I can hardly muster up the level of sarcasm required to imply that that the MCTS white elephant could be equated to being a replacement for the old depot.

I just think the transit center is and always has been a poor design in a bad location. I would be happy if Milwaukee County sold it.

Dave has a good point about he public trust doctrine. How well the Pieces of Eight site works is dependent on the design. If the Fresh Water Institute needs more space then please use the transit center.

Dave Reid said...

Understand they are not talking about a little office building on the lake.

They are talking about a signature building, that is a statement to the world, that Milwaukee is serious about leading the world in water research. Yes sometimes image matters, and you couldn't ask for a more signature location than between the MAM and Discovery World.

Putting the School of Freshwater Sciences (or The World Water Center - Cudahy) anywhere but on Lake Michigan does it, and Milwaukee a disservice.

James Rowen said...

Dave: I don't disagree that this could be a signature bldg., as you say (though remember the first Pier Wisconsin design?) and I don't disagree that there is anything behind this but good intentions, but:

I'll date myself a bit here and say that I have been attending public project meetings or planning sessions, either as a participant or observer, since 1973, when I went to work for Madison Paul Soglin, and what I see in this case is an effort to push through a project on a very public site without a fraction of public input.

So my point is: if this is what major interests in the city want, they'd better get to a public planning process pronto, or expect struggle.

Dave Reid said...

Regardless of the process it will be a struggle. But I'll point out this would need approval of the Harbor Commission, LDC (I think that's what its called), the Common Council, The Mayor and the DNR so of course there will be public meetings and input. Today was just the beginning. Hell to build a 6 story building on the East Side requires a series of public meetings in Milwaukee (and too often architecture by mob), let alone this project.

But the point is the location matters. Putting it in the bus barn, or the four other suggestions offered at today's meeting, all say this really isn't that important to Milwaukee. They all say lets do it half right.

I'm just not content for Milwaukee to miss out on this opportunity, and I hope we don't end up screwing this up or doing it half right like what happens so often in Milwaukee (Note the 2 RTAs!, 20 years of waiting for transit spending and so on)

Todd F said...

One thing I don't get about either new location. The labs and work shops will remain where they currently are, as I understand it. That means that researchers will have to travel back and forth from their lab or shop to their offices?

The river dockage at the current location is also pretty good for winter use, something I'm not sure about at the Pieces of Eight location.