Sunday, December 18, 2016

Despite GOP blockade, streetcar-related development heading for Milwaukee

[Updated] Great to see all the job-producing development ticketed for downtown Milwaukee - - nearly two dozen projects, I understand - - and like the new Bucks arena, and The Couture complex, this proposed Marcus Corp. multi-purpose convention center adjunct is tied to the streetcar system which is under construction.

The Milwaukee Business Journal's story about competing proposals for the new, mixed use development near the convention center mentioned the streetcar connections:

Plans from the hotel division of Milwaukee-based Marcus Corp. (NYSE: MCS) include a 276-room expansion of the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, 509 W. Wisconsin Ave., an additional 61,500 square feet of new meeting and exhibit space, a hub for the new downtown streetcar, retail, food and beverage outlets, and a 200-unit high-rise apartment tower. The Marcus proposal, which had been one of two proposals submitted for the site, is being called “eMbarKE...” 
Marcus’ plans are being made public 80 days after the Milwaukee Business Journal broke the news of the $279 million public-private “Nexus” project proposal for Fourth and Wisconsin, that includes three hotels with more than 506 rooms, a hub for the Milwaukee streetcar, more than 100,000 square feet of convention space, and 22,000 square feet of street level restaurants, bars and caf├ęs.
The city rail program survived opposition by Scott Walker, rightwing talk radio, and anti-Milwaukee politicking by Republicans across the board - - from ex-legislator-turned-lobbyist Scott Jensen to former Waukesha County Executive Dan Finley and the County Board there - - even after the initial plan dropped Waukesha County from any rail contact.

And don't forget the negative role played by ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson who had been an initial supporter and had his transportation department help with the planning.

But Thompson flushed away a big part of his moderate legacy and often-city-friendly agenda by turning his back first on his own Milwaukee urban rail concept that was part of a freeway expansion, and, later, opposing using federal funds for an Amtrak extension to Madison from Milwaukee for the shallowest of political reasons - - aligning himself with Walker's partisan, Milwaukee-hating hostility to rail.

Fair to say that these Republicans, having killed light rail for purely ideological and electioneering reasons, and who also played the same 'stick-it-to-Milwaukee' game by delaying the streetcar for years, cost Milwaukee and Wisconsin thousands of jobs and countess millions of dollars in rail-related development.

Nonetheless, the streetcar launch is not that far away - - 2018, officials say - - and city residents, merchants, shoppers, tourists and developers will be winners.

Note the advantages of just the initial route:

The route was identified to serve the greatest numbers of riders along a route that also provides significant opportunities for economic development.  It was designed to complement existing bus routes, especially the major bus corridor along Wisconsin Avenue.   It connects the Intermodal Station and its 1.4 million annual users; the Third Ward (the fastest-growing neighborhood in City); East Town (with the largest concentration of jobs in the state); and the lower east side (the highest-density residential neighborhood in state).  The initial route and extensions would be within a quarter-mile* of the following destinations: 
  • 100% hotels
  • 90% occupied office
  • 90% occupied retail
  • 77% of parking
  • 77% of housing
  • 90% of major downtown attractions
  • 100% of downtown’s 20 largest employers
Banned in Milwaukee
Twin Cities street car, above. Milwaukee's will use next generation, sleeker equipment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just wait, Koch interests will find a way to pull the plug on this yet. The last thing Koch/multinational corporate interests/GOP/Walker want is economic success in Milwaukee.

Highly concentrated multi-generational poverty suits their purpose. Scott Walker would never have gotten anywhere without having a straw-man villain to direct anger too. This is one of the oldest propaganda tricks in the book, us-against-them. Walker plays this card effectively, but then his role in creating this type of mass disinformation is simple.

All he needs to do is repeat talking points that outline the massive give-aways-to-the-rich-austerity-for-the-masses agenda he has been entrusted to push. The bigger work is casting the propaganda across the state and we all know who does that.