By Doug Hissom Special to Published Feb 16, 2007 at 5:26 AM
The city of Wauwatosa has been left with 50 acres of vacant land to play with, but the price tag to do something with it is decidedly prohibitive. The area surrounding Hart Park along State Street was cleared by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District over the past few years for a flood control project.

A plan to create a park, soccer fields, a water play area, bocce courts, a pavilion and a skateboard park would cost the city about $10 million, money the city clearly doesn’t have. And after spending $48 million to clear the area of 82 houses and install flood control measures, MMSD doesn’t appear ready to invest much more on the space to help the city.

According to MMSD, there are no provisions to fund the expansion of the park, but the district built a new tot lot, a parking lot and replaced some trees. The district also chipped in for park planning, a tree replacement fund and flood-proofing buildings.

City officials, however, say the park plan, developed by Schreiber/Anderson & Associates is a “wish list” and taxpayers shouldn’t be concerned about the projected cost.

“We included everything in our wildest dreams,” says Mayor Theresa Estness. “Will all of that translate into the finished park? I doubt it.”

The mayor says private funds would be solicited to help pay for a pavilion and the skateboard park. The pavilion alone has come in with a $1.3 million price tag.  She predicts the city would spend about $5 million on the park. “It’s not as insurmountable as it seems.”

Open houses are scheduled for March 16 and April 1 for the public to digest the plan.

“It’s really going to be a gem,” Estness promises.

Park East Fight Renews: The squabble between the city and county over the Park East Corridor heated up again this week over how much aid the City of Milwaukee was willing to put up to develop a parcel owned by the county. Developer Robert Curto says his $77 million project for the 2-acre corner of Milwaukee, Jefferson, Lyon and Ogden needs $9 million in city aid. While the city put up money for other Park East projects, such as $8.5 million for local developer Barry Mandel’s project, The North End, and some $40 million for the Pabst Brewery project, it is cutting off the spigot for Curto. Curto’s Park East Square would include 126 luxury apartments, a 148-room hotel and 80,000 sq. ft. of retail and office space.

Mental Health Concerns: The Milwaukee County Board recently approved a study to move mental health patients from the Mental Health Complex in Wauwatosa to the vacant St. Michael’s Hospital, 2400 W. Villard Ave. The idea floated by County Exec Scott Walker would allow the county to sell the ‘Tosa facility. Mental Health and behavioral services have seemed to be a bane for the county to support, and a move of the mental health services could be seen as the first step in selling off that county service to the private sector.

But County Board Chairman Lee Holloway says that simply isn’t the case.

"Privatizing our Mental Health Complex is not under consideration at all here at the County Board. We are looking at possibly moving the complex to make the operation more efficient. That would ensure these services are preserved for the long-term," assures Holloway.

Doug Hissom Special to
Doug Hissom has covered local and state politics for 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper.

An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe.

He lives in Bay View.