Friday, June 12, 2009

Harbor Commission Asks UWM For A Detailed Lakefront School Plan

Some logic is emerging in the rush to allow UWM to acquire the Pieces of Eight restaurant site on Milwaukee's downtown lakefront as the location for a new School of Freshwater Science:

Milwaukee's Harbor Commission, the first approval step in the process, has asked UWM for a detailed plan.

Final approval rests with Milwaukee city government because the land is city-owned.

The site is only 1.67 acres, is bordered by the lakefront and two existing structures - - Discovery World and the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum - - and would require the acquisition and transfer of the restaurant's lease to UWM by philanthropist Michael Cudahy, Discovery World's builder and prime mover.

Some space in the new building would be used by the M7's Water Council for private sector water activities.

UWM has said it can successfully build a two-story structure that would also provide public access to the lake and not impair the view and value of the Calatrava.

Let's be clear: there is universal enthusiasm and support for the creation of the new school.

But there are suggestions that alternative sites be considered - - the Transit Center almost across Lincoln Memorial Drive from the restaurant site, the UW-M Water Institute site on Greenfield Ave., the UWM Alumni center property (more than twice the size of the restaurant site) on the bluff above the city's Linnwood Water Treatment Plant.

There is also concern that the new school is too close to the Calatrava.

And there are arguments in favor or returning the restaurant site should be returned to green space, because as filled lake bed land, the restaurant site creation and construction was a violation of the state's constitutional Public Trust Doctrine.

And there are real questions about whether the site is large enough for the school's public-private purposes, meeting parking needs, and so forth.

Good for the Harbor Commission beginning to want answers to relevant questions.

And as I suggested in a recent Journal Sentinel op-ed on the subject, let's get busy creating a genuine Milwaukee lakefront plan so there is a blueprint for development and lakefront priorities going forward.

Here is a link that includes my op-ed with an alternative site suggestion - - the Alumni House and Conference Center - - and the Journal Sentinel's editorial in favor of the Pieces of Eight site for the school.

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