January 7, 2011


Dear Friends,

Two Milwaukee development opportunities, the use of vacant MPS buildings and the proposed downtown Marriott hotel, generated media interest this week. I continue to support City control of vacant MPS buildings. In fact, I introduced the measure in my 2011 City Legislative Package which was presented to and passed by the Common Council on November 23rd. When I met with Governor Walker in mid-December, we discussed empty MPS buildings and charter schools. I also laid the groundwork with legislative leaders during meetings that same day.

The City can manage the disposition of the buildings. It’s a real estate management and disposition approach. MPS will have ample time to determine the school system’s needs for any particular building.

The sale to either charter or choice interests will be permissive, not mandatory. The City may have an interest in a specific property for neighborhood development and/or redevelopment purposes. I want vacant MPS buildings to be neighborhood assets.

Since 1989, the City has provided $182 million to MPS in borrowing authority for school building improvements. Our City tax levy cost for this in 2011 alone is $12.2 million. In an effort to balance our capital needs and priorities, I eliminated this program a few years back.

If the City gains control over building sales via legislation, I would advocate for sales proceeds to be used to help pay down the levy-supported debt we have incurred on MPS’ behalf.

Yesterday, developers introduced a new, compromise design for the proposed downtown hotel that they will present to the Historic Preservation Commission for review this coming Monday. I urge commission members to act on this matter and keep the process moving. We need to send the message to developers that reasonable ideas move forward in Milwaukee.

I support this project because it’s about jobs, economic development, the future of Wisconsin Avenue, and a better environment for people to come downtown and to do business.

Five years from now, I do not want to be on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Milwaukee Street looking at the same underutilized storefronts. Five years from now, I want to stand at that intersection and say look at all the people who work here.

This project is consistent with my vision for a vibrant and exciting downtown Milwaukee where we are making a successful effort to bring new energy and new private-sector investment to our major commercial area so that we can grow and thrive as a community. This is a big shot in the arm for downtown Milwaukee, and it is a project that should move forward.

This is the type of project that I want to see more of for Milwaukee. City government will continue to work with the private sector to attract these types of developments to our community.  

Regrettably, not all old buildings can be saved, and we have to make way for the future. When buildings have significant historic value and it is practical and affordable to redevelop them, historic preservation should be pursued. That’s not the case here, and we should move forward so we enhance downtown, grow the tax base and generate jobs. It’s certainly a better alternative than leaving empty buildings that contribute very little to our community.

I can respect that some others may have a different point of view. That’s OK, because that’s what democracy is all about. But this is a great project for Milwaukee, and I thank Dean Greenstreet of UWM’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning for working with the developers on this compromise design.  


Mayor, City of Milwaukee