I maybe could have resurrected my Whither Milwaukee County for this…and it does have one future installment coming…but not yet:
It was announced in several venues today (including Facebook postings by County Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic) that the Milwaukee Art Museum will make an offer to purchase O’Donnell Park from the county.
Just a few months ago the County Board rejected an offer (admittedly an under market offer to start with) from Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance for O’Donnell primarily for the parking lot…parking they coveted for the employees of their new office tower. This would have been a great deal for NML but a poor one for the county on a number of levels.
But the board rejected the bid and rightly so…park land is park land and shouldn’t be sold to a private party…period.
Now the parking garage portion of the park needs some maintenance…any where from a couple of million to five million depending on the repairs being talked about. But since O’Donnell actually brings in revenue from parking and rent for the Coast Restaurant and Betty Brinn Museum…seeing the way to do the necessary repairs isn’t a financial burden for the county.
But low and behold the board offered O’Donnell to the Milwaukee Art Museum…and since they rely on the parking garage for a majority of their patrons…they would like to buy it. Of course now the board is excited to sell parkland to a private party…albeit a non profit…because it will insure public access for years to come!
The Milwaukee Art Museum will offer to buy O’Donnell Park and its multilevel parking garage from Milwaukee County, museum director Dan Keegan said Tuesday.
The museum wants to ensure long-term access to parking and the lakefront for its visitors and the public, Keegan told the County Board’s parks committee.
“Parking is critical to the art museum,” Keegan said.
Up to 60% of the museum’s visitors park in the O’Donnell garage. A lease could not provide the museum with guaranteed parking for the next several decades, should the county decide to sell the property to a private developer, he said.
No purchase price or other details were discussed Tuesday. Keegan said he expected a deal to be negotiated by September for the board’s approval.
The County Board in April gave the museum 90 days to study a possible lease or purchase of the park.
O’Donnell Park includes a plaza at the east end of Wisconsin Ave., between E. Michigan and E. Mason streets, that sits atop a multilevel parking structure west of N. Lincoln Memorial Drive. The three-story Miller Pavilion is on the southwest corner of the plaza and houses the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and the Coast restaurant.
County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic said selling the park to the museum, rather than a private developer, would give the public access to the plaza for years to come.
A museum purchase would “preserve valuable open park space while proposing the kind of visual enhancements that only the Milwaukee Art Museum can offer,” Dimitrijevic said.
Look…either O’Donnell Park is a park and county treasure or it’s a real asset available to the highest bidder or ‘bff’ of the county board…if you know what I mean. When the original 90 day look see was proposed, I countered on social media on a county supervisors site that I thought it was hypocritical to not sell because it was a park last fall but readily sell now. But I got the proverbial earful because it’s still in the public arena and will be owned by a friendly non-profit. Bulloney is bulloney whether you slice it on the grain or on the bias.
Full Disclosure: I am a long term holder of NML life insurance and have investments with them…I love the Milwaukee Art Museum and have been a long time member and supporter. This isn’t about either institution…it’s about the hypocrisy in the County Courthouse.