By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Sep 06, 2023 at 9:32 AM

With a new 32-story mixed-use mass timber tower called The Edison planned to rise just across the street to the west, the site of the Marcus Center parking structure looks like it, too, may get new life.

On Wednesday, the City of Milwaukee’s Department of City Development issued a request for proposals for development of the 106,432-square-foot site at 1001 N. Water St.

The site as it looks today. (PHOTO: City of Milwaukee)

The block, bounded by Water, Highland, State and Edison has been home to the parking structure for about a half-century and it’s hardly been the best use of such a prominently located site.

The City of Milwaukee is seeking proposals for a premier site and development opportunity centrally located in the heart of the City.

“Downtown has many very active blocks, however this site has been a non-contributor to the activation of the North Water Street corridor due to its singular use as a parking facility and its setback from North Water Street,” reads the RFP.

“A key outcome of the successful RFP responder will be to raise the vibrancy of this block and its new use to offer activation of the site’s urban edges.”

Considering that the site is along a major bus route, across from a park (and across the river from another park), near a number of office buildings, hotels and entertainment corridors – to say nothing of the 200,000 people who attend events at the Marcus Center across the street and the new apartments that have been springing up Downtown – it shouldn’t be difficult to breathe life into this dead zone.

DCD is seeking,  “An aggressive mixed-use development with ground floor public activation, which includes a mix of uses, is ideal at this site. Ground floor uses might include restaurants, art galleries or cultural/civic uses; with residential, hotel, office, cultural/civic uses above. These uses should be used to wrap any above ground structured parking on the site.”

The new development is expected to also include parking, presumably to replace the spots in the current structure, which has seen better days.

“The parking ramp component should be considered a design opportunity in and of itself, making the experience of parking there a favorable experience for users,” the RFP reads.

“The future use of the site is intended to serve as a major east/west portal that is engaged by downtown visitors moving to-and-from Pere Marquette Park and the Deer District on the west side of the Milwaukee River. It also serves to link together areas both north and south along Water Street.

The recently signed into law Connec+ing MKE: Downtown Plan 2040 recommended improving the usage of this site. In fact, one of the renderings included in the plan imagines a development on this site, too.

You can read more about that plan here.

For complete details on the request for proposals – which are due by Dec. 15 – go here.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.