Northwestern Mutual has proposed purchasing Oâ€™Donnell Park from Milwaukee County for $14 million, though according the the plan NML would receive a $1.3 million credit to pay for parking structure maintenance.
The public, NML says, would still have access to the park, pavilions and parking structure.
Apparently, NML and the County have been discussing this idea for a while.
"We have had conceptual discussions with Milwaukee County for some time on this idea," says Sandy Botcher, head of Northwestern Mutualâ€™s Downtown campus development project, in the news release, which skillfully avoids mentioning the proposed future of Mark di Suvero's "The Calling" sculpture.
In a statement issued by his office today, County Executive Chris Abele says he supports the deal, which has been in the works "for more than a year."
"Itâ€™s not often enough we get to announce such positive news. Not only will this sale allow us to continue to improve our beautiful parks, itâ€™s also a great partnership with a company that has made a strong commitment to our community. I look forward to addressing any questions from the community and finalizing a deal that benefits the community."
The statement from NML says under the proposal, which would include the pavilion buildings and the parking structure along the lakefront,Â "the company would buy the park at its current appraised value of $14 million and would receive a credit of $1.3 million reflecting a portion of needed maintenance on the parking structure."
It adds that the company -- which is clearing away the last bits of its recently demolished 16-story office tower across the street in preparation for beginning work on a much taller $450 millionÂ tower to be completed in 2017 -- "would make considerable improvements to the parking structure and enhance the open space above."
Botcher says:Â "Weâ€™ve developed a proposal that relieves the County of some of its financial burden, upgrades the parking structure, and enhances the high-quality open space for the entire community to enjoy."
Abele's statement says that all but $5 million of the purchase price would be used to pay off the county's debt on O'Donnell Park. It adds that with the property returned to the public tax rolls, MPS, MATC and the City of Milwaukee would stand to benefit from the sale.
No one can really question NML's commitment to Downtown Milwaukee, where it has been headquartered for well over a century and where it is in the process of making a major commitment to the skyline, but is this a good precedent to set?
"Thatâ€™s a valid concern," says 14th District Supervisor Jason Haas.Â "I ran for office on County Parks, which I want to improve. I think that any sale of any park land would have to be contingent upon an assurance written in stone that public access would be guaranteed. A major concern Iâ€™ve heard when talking to other supervisors is will access be denied. But they have repeatedly said there will be public access."
On the other hand, despite its name is O'Donnell even a park? Should taxpayers be in the parking and commercial real estate (there are a restaurant and children's museum in the pavilions) game?
"It is a big parking structure that has a view of the lake on top," Haas says. "Oâ€™Donnell is an interesting property, nobody thinks, â€˜letâ€™s go to Oâ€™Donnell Park to hang out.â€™ The surface of Oâ€™Donnell Park is valuable because of the lake view and the point of the park is to ensure access to the lakefront to the public."
As for the $1.3 million credit for repairs, NML says that's a fraction of what it believes near-term repairs will cost.Â If these numbers are accurate, in the short term it sounds like a good deal for taxpayers.
"An analysis of the parking structure commissioned by Northwestern Mutual in 2012 identified more than $6.5 million of near-term repairs needed in the facility," the statement says. "Were it to acquire Oâ€™Donnell Park, the company would initiate immediate improvements to the parking facility that would include structural repairs, deferred maintenance, improved cleanliness and enhanced lighting to brighten the facility along with fresh painting and updated signage," reads the release.
Haas says that the County Board -- which according to Haas passed a resolution supporting the sale of O'Donnell Park a few years ago -- will only be allowed by state law to say "yea" or "nay" to the deal. It won't be able to make amendments or alter terms agreed upon by the county executive and NML. He says he would he vote for the sale.
"I donâ€™t think we have many options, he says. "It is expensive to maintain and would be tremendously expensive to replace. (Selling) would be a significant easing of responsibility (for the county)."
What do you think? Should NML be allowed to purchase public parkland? If so, should there be restrictions on what the company can do with it?
With the new NML tower across the street, another new tower going up just south of O'Donnell Park and the proposed Couture, should O'Donnell Park even continue to stand?Â Is it the best long-term use of the space?
And would someone please think of "The Calling"?
Weigh in below using the Talkbacks feature or post your comment via on social media.
You can also attend one of the upcoming County Parks public input sessions slated for Monday, July 28 at Dineen Park Community Room, 6901 W. Vienna Ave.; Tuesday, July 29 atÂ Boerner Botanical Gardens Education Center, 9400 Boerner Dr.,Â Greendale; andÂ Wednesday, July 30, Kosciuszko Community Center, 2201 S. 7th St. All three run from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
This post was updated to add comment from County Executive Chris Abele and County Supervisor Jason Haas.
No--this land is too valuable as a parking structure. Land must be sold for a high rise with lake views. NML must incorprate public and it's own needs in a parking structure in their new building. I am, totally, against the county selling the structure for continued patking. plus, a much better looking building must be in such a prominate location. thank-you jerry johnson
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published Jan. 26, 2015
Maybe it's just because I love visiting schools, but I always tell prospective parents to go to a school that interests them as a potential option for their children. Sure, read Great Schools' ratings, talk to other parents, Google the school, but if you're going to do one thing only: go to the school. Not sure which school or schools to check out? Then the first step is to visit the MPS All-School Enrollment Fair on Saturday, Jan. 31 at Milwaukee High School of the Arts.
Published Jan. 26, 2015
DNA testing for genealogical purposes can open up new vistas in your self-identity and your self-awareness. We took a test and here's what we learned.
Published Jan. 24, 2015
When Milwaukee's Italian community read the news that a group of Americans - including many prominent city residents - would protest Italian intervention in Spain outside the Italian Consulate in June 1937, it must have awaited the event with at least some trepidation. When the protests took place, everyone - including the picketers themselves - were surprised by what occurred and by the reaction of Milwaukeeans.
Published Jan. 22, 2015
By the 1970s, an ugly addition and the gutting of the deco charm inside left The Edgewater a mere shadow of its original glory on the shores of Lake Mendota. But now, with a new owner, a completely new renovation and a brand new sister building across an inviting plaza, The Edgewater is clearly atop the world of Madison hotels once again.
Published Jan. 20, 2015
If you want to hear more about Dermond Property Investments LLC's plan to develop the site long occupied by Faust Drum Center, 2204 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., and weigh in on it, Ald. Tony Zielinski hosts a town hall meeting on the proposed development on Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Bay View Post 180, 2860 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Published Jan. 20, 2015
The Williams House, 606 E. Homer St., holds special significance - both tragic and joyful - for Beau Walter's pioneering Bay View family.
Published Jan. 19, 2015
Much like a traveling tent show, the Wisconsin Historical Society is moving its new exhibition around the state and this month it's in Milwaukee. "The Wisconsin History Tour: Sharing Wisconsin's Stories One Community at a Time" is on view on the first floor of the Central Milwaukee Public Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave., through Jan. 29.
Published Jan. 19, 2015
Driving down Greenfield Avenue last week I spied the sign outside Paulie's Pub and Eatery, 8031 W. Greenfield Ave., in West Allis, and was reminded that trying the wings there was on my Milwaukee to-do list. Despite that salad in the fridge back at the office, I called an audible and pulled into the parking lot. Only when I sat down did I realize that it was Friday, which, of course, means fish fry. What to do? Well, improvise!
Published Jan. 16, 2015
When I lived in Bay View for about seven years in the 1990s and early 2000s, I spent a lot of time walking. So, as you might expect, I have way more than seven, but here is one for each year I loved in the Oh-Seven.
Published Jan. 15, 2015
When the Milwaukee Art Museum reopens its reinstalled collection in revamped galleries something will be missing, but many won't likely even notice. What have been called the "Bradley Rooms" or the "Bradley Apartment" will have vanished.