Abele Rejects Hotel Wage Provision

Developers would like to include an extended stay hotel as part of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s Innovation Campus at the county grounds in Wauwatosa. The campus is being developed by an affiliate of the UWM Real Estate Foundation who purchased the site from the county.

Last month the county board unanimously voted to change the original development agreement with UWM. And the board by a 10 – 8 vote, added a wage provision to the agreement requiring the eventual operator of the extended stay hotel to pay employees at least 125% of the annual poverty level wage and to provide sick pay. This comes to about $26,000 annually or $12.50 per hour.

Of course the developer protested that this wage requirement would kill the hotel development. Typical wages for hotel staff are in the $8 – 9 range (federal minimum wage is $7.25).

Yesterday County Executive Chris Abele vetoed the provision.

Abele called the wage and sick pay requirements “illegal and unprecedented,” citing state law restrictions on local living wage and sick pay mandates.

Imposing such requirements “at the 11th hour that result in pushing businesses away is not the way” to create good jobs and an attractive business climate, Abele said, in a statement.

This is the same County Executive Abele who thought nothing of allowing, nay encouraging, the state legislature to impose wage and benefit restrictions on local elected officials…i.e. the Milwaukee County Board. A pay rate by the way even less than that proposed for the hotel workers…maybe he’d be more appreciative if they’d voted to ask the hotel to pay the per capita income for Milwaukee County which is $24,000…well maybe?

When discussing the provision last month, County Supervisor John Weishan said:

“I don’t think asking that you pay a fraction above poverty-level wages is too much to ask…”

And of course the City of Wauwatosa would love to have the hotel completed as proposed:

Wauwatosa city officials say the hotel would play a key role in generating property taxes to pay off the city’s debt tied to building roads and parking structures at Innovation Campus. The hotel would have an estimated value of $8 million and would join ABB Inc.’s regional headquarters, a business incubator, apartments and other buildings at the development.

Which brings up the issue that I have with the hotel (and the other housing) at Innovation Campus. If this is a campus for research and development why are we considering building a hotel on the site? Shouldn’t we be using the limited acreage available for additional campus buildings? Isn’t there enough private property available for hotels and housing? And should public developments provide a site for a business that will compete with private enterprise? I’d love to see Innovation Campus remain a pure research park and leave the development of housing and hotels to private developers on private property.

I don’t know if the board will over ride Exec Abele’s veto or not…and I am not sure how I feel on the topic…BUT I wish they could pull the hotel idea completely out of the Innovation Campus project!

One Quick Question about Innovation Park and the Eschweiler Buildings?

I am an architecture nut and love the work of Alexander Eschweiler. And it’s a sin that the county allowed the buildings on the county grounds to deteriorate to the point that it is economically unfeasible to restore them to contemporary use.

But that’s not where I am going with this. If Innovation Park is supposedly UWM’s premier research and engineering center why the flock is Mandel trying to build housing there?