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This rendering shows the current Bradley Center land being developed and including green space.

New petition says Bradley Center site should become a park

Remember the renderings of the new Bucks arena showing all the exciting development – however vague – on the site of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, which will be torn down once the new arena and live block area are completed?

The members of DNA MKE (Downtown Neighbors Association of Milwaukee) – who obviously have a little extra skin in the game – believe the land should be converted to green space, including a dog park, and have released a list of their "top 10 reasons why the Bradley Center site should become a park."

Here are those reasons, in old school David Letterman-style ascending order, as penned by DNA MKE:

10. The Bradley Center site is located between the new Bucks' arena to the north, the UWM Panther arena to the south and Turner Hall and the new Live Block entertainment district to the east (with 4th Street closed from Highland to Juneau) – it is not a site conducive for residential or hotel development due to the traffic, noise and crowds these venues will generate during evenings on 250 or more dates each year.

9. The site is also not attractive for office development because it is not near a cluster of other office buildings – retail uses seem even less likely in today's on-line world and no further restaurant, tavern or other hospitality uses are needed with nearby Live Block, Pabst Brewery, Old World Third Street, Water Street and other venues already competing for a piece of the pie.

8. There is ample and far more attractive development space available nearby, just north of Juneau Avenue between 3rd and 5th Streets, which is now controlled by the Bucks and can support the TIF district created to help finance the Bucks' arena and associated development – a dog park, playground and other outdoor public space nearby at the Bradley Center site would only enhance the development prospects of this former freeway corridor.

7. For all these reasons, the Bradley Center site will be a tough site to develop and may sit vacant for years – instead of another surface parking lot (like 4th & Wisconsin has been for 30+ years), let's create a true public amenity now that compliments the arenas and other nearby uses.

6. Downtown is growing into a desirable residential center – to keep the momentum rolling, dog parks, playgrounds for children and other public space are all needed to provide a well-rounded set of amenities for Downtown residents, as well as Downtown workers and visitors.

5. Aside from the lakefront, there is very little green space Downtown and very few publicly controlled large parcels of land suitable for park space – until the Bradley Center comes down.

4. A park at this location will attract daytime users during the basketball season, as well as day and evening users during the summer – this will activate the area at times when there are no events at the neighboring sports and entertainment venues, preventing the "dead zone" typically associated with these sites when not in use.

3. Urban Park on the lakefront, just north of Henry Maier Festival Park, now provides a great model for a parcel of publicly-owned land that has been adopted by its much larger entertainment venue neighbor, Summerfest, which will improve and maintain this complimentary public space in 2018 – Bradley Park could likewise be built, operated and maintained as an open and free public space by the Wisconsin Center District and the Bucks.

2. The Bradley family deserves a permanent and public reminder of the generosity demonstrated by Jane Bradley Pettit 30 years ago when she financed the then-new arena – Bradley Park at this same location would be a very appropriate honor.

1. The tax-paying public – especially those who aren't basketball fans – deserve a new, fun and free amenity at this site, in exchange for contributing more than $250 million to the new Bucks' arena and associated developments.

This Downtown office worker could be convinced, but I'm not quite there. I agree with some of the DNA MKE reasoning, but not all of it, yet.

It is surely true that once you leave the lakefront there's not much green space Downtown, especially in Westown, and the idea of the site becoming a surface parking lot for more than a year or two makes me shudder, as I have every time I've walked past 4th and Wisconsin these past too many decades.

However, with much (though most definitely NOT all) of the residential development in recent years occurring east of the river, would anyone living in East Town – or even the eastern edge of Westown – choose a park on the Bradley Center site over the lakefront? Is there enough of a nearby population to make a park on the site a vibrant space or will we simply have a greener MacArthur Square on our hands for the next half-century?

Interestingly, the arena renderings (see photo at the top of this post) show the site being developed with a fair amount of green already, suggesting that – while the development pictured was hypothetical – the BC land could include a portion reserved for a park without giving over the entire plot to green space.

If the live block and arena will be disruptive to hotel, residential and office development on adjacent land BC on the south, as DNA MKE suggests, I don't understand the position that equally adjacent land to the north is "far more attractive," for development.

The land to the south, unlike the land to the north, could form part of an entertainment and convention corridor that connects the Bucks arena to the Miller High Life Theater, the UWM Panther Arena and the Wisconsin Center. From this standpoint, a park might be a better fit on the developable land to the north, where it might also feel more connected and available to residents who live northwest of the arena.

Finally, that the tax-paying public deserves a park sounds good, but some taxpayers might prefer the relief that could come from having potentially valuable land developed and on the tax rolls.

At the moment, I'm a taxpayer in the middle: I lean toward a compromise solution that includes the kind of development the arena is expected to create – and indeed is already creating – and green space that would provide amenities (Colectivo's first all-season Letterbox Tea kiosk?) to Downtown residents and workers, students at nearby MATC and visitors, both local and from afar.

Give it a thought and then consider signing DNA MKE's petition calling for the land to be used as a park here.


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