While its plans to purchase O'Donnell Park were scrapped by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors' vote this morning, Northwestern Mutual (NML) has quickly moved forward, announcing late this afternoon its new plans to work with Mayor Tom Barrett and the Milwaukee Common Council to build a mixed use real estate development immediately west of its Downtown campus.
The early internally developed plans feature a structure with up to 1,000 parking spaces for its employees, along with residential and potential retail components.
According to NML vice president and head of its Downtown campus expansion Sandy Botcher, there are no further details in terms of scope, location, design or cost. However, NML owns almost all of the property on the block bounded by North Van Buren, North Jackson, East Mason and East Wells streets, as well as the block that surrounds the 611 E. Wisconsin building on the southwest corner of Van Buren Street and Wisconsin Avenue.
In a press release from NML, the company noted that even after the events at the county board meeting this morning, its "belief in Milwaukee is undiminished."
"Although we are disappointed by the County Board’s decision, we want to acknowledge the outpouring of support we have received from all corners of the community, both today and throughout the debate," Botcher said.
"With this missed opportunity, it is now incumbent on the County Board to find solutions to the long-overdue deferred maintenance issues at O’Donnell," Botcher continued. "The board needs to make good on this morning’s dialogue about better options for O’Donnell Park, including how to pay for the millions of dollars in deferred maintenance."
While the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors did not OK the NML's O'Donnell Park purchase, it did approve county executive Chris Abele's lakefront development proposal for the $122 million Couture high-rise.
"This project is truly historic, and I’m grateful to the County Board Supervisors who voted to support this plan," Abele said. "The Couture project will change the skyline of Milwaukee, while also putting thousands of people to work and greatly improving the public’s access to our Lakefront."
The Couture – which will replace the Downtown Transit Center, on Michigan Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive – will be 44 stories high, making it one of the tallest buildings in Wisconsin.
The new high-rise development will also provide 81, 560 square feet of public space – including a rooftop park, a public transportation concourse, a potential streetcar stop, a walkway to the lakefront, bike sharing station, public parking and a public plaza – along with $17.5 million in other public improvements, $68 million in property tax revenue over 30 years, 2,074 construction-related jobs and 150 permanent jobs.
"For the past four years we’ve been making significant progress towards a better Milwaukee County, and this project is a big step in the right direction," Abele said. "We must, and will continue to look for strong partnerships like this."