By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jan 28, 2021 at 1:16 PM

The Milwaukee Public Museum has announced a lineup of partners that will help design and build the new museum, which will be located on the northeast corner of 6th Street and McKinley Boulevard in the Park East corridor.

The building will also house a new Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, and its site was announced in September.

The team will include Thinc Design and Ennead Architects – both based in New York – Minneapolis-based Mortenson, and Milwaukee’s Kahler Slater and ALLCON.

Thinc will be tapped to develop exhibitions that meld technology and the diorama style exhibits for which MPM has long been known.

Ennead Architects and Kahler Slater will collaborate on the 230,000-square-foot building’s architecture, and Mortenson will work with the local, woman-owned ALLCON on the construction of that design.

“As designing and building a new museum will have national and global significance and will be a point of pride for Wisconsinites for generations to come, we searched for the best talent both locally and globally,” said Dr. Ellen Censky, president & CEO of the Milwaukee Public Museum, in a statement issued Thursday.

“We are thrilled with the group we’ve assembled and feel they will capture the interconnection of nature and culture through time and space using design as part of this exciting process.”  

“The ability to design a unique space that encourages kids to explore new worlds and learn by making is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” added Brian King, executive director of the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum.

“We are confident that this team of design and development partners will create a second-to-none experience to inspire our children while at the same time, supporting our local community through mentoring and skill development.”

Museum leadership said that it conducted a “thorough interview process” after sifting through “dozens of applications” from prospective consultants.

Those selected, “were chosen based on their outstanding museum portfolios, their experience engaging with a diverse range of stakeholders, their ability to reflect accurate depictions of the unique and diverse cultures of individual communities in the work they produce, and their ability to work collaboratively toward a final vision.”

The expectation is that by bringing together the exhibition and building design teams at the same time, they will, “embark on a process that builds on the conceptual work the museum has been doing and centers on the heart of the museum experience – the four million objects and specimens that tell the interconnected history of our natural and cultural worlds.”

In the meantime, MPM is currently working to complete acquision of the 2.4-acre site, which comprises a number of adjacent plots that are separately owned. The expectation is that such acquisition will be complete in February.

The final cost estimates for the project are expected to be determined during the design phase, the museum said.

In September, Censky told me, “in a perfect world, we’d break ground in late 2022/early 2023 and the museum would open in 2025 or 2026, but there are still a lot of variables to consider.”

According to Thursday’s release, the final design will incorporate sustainable practices.

“We are honored to be chosen by MPM as a partner who will help bring to life their vision for the future museum,” said Kahler Slater CEO George Meyer, the principal-in-charge for the project.  

“As a firm that has designed significant civic buildings around Milwaukee and the State for over 110 years, we at Kahler Slater understand the importance and impact this once-in-a-lifetime project offers our community. Along with the rest of the team, we see this as a catalytic opportunity for the Museum to establish a unique center for culture, diversity, and science. We are especially excited to partner with Ennead and MPM to design a space which will spark innovation and opportunities for Milwaukee and the entire state.”

Added Scott Heberlein, vice president and general manager of Mortenson, “We are proud to be part of the team that brings this new immersive adventure to our state and continues MPM’s legacy as one of the nation’s premier natural history museums. We are energized by building the landscape of Milwaukee and enhancing the cultural and educational offerings to our community, families, and future generations.”

Meanwhile, ALLCON President Ana Lopez said, “This is a tremendous opportunity for ALLCON to empower ourselves by evolving our knowledge and abilities through this collaborative effort with Mortenson.

“We are part of a tough but rewarding industry.  Partnerships such as this not only allow economic opportunities for small and emerging minority businesses, but also bring rich and diverse perspectives and experiences to each project.”

In September, Censky answered a variety of questions about the new museum facility. You can read that post 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 OnMilwaukee.com 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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.