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John Mercure: Mercurey Rising

Park East Progress?

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The Park East Corridor story has been a sad and confusing tale.

It was ten years ago that Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist won his battle to have the Park East Freeway spur torn down. Ten years ago this month the razing of the freeway began.  There were grand plans for entertainment complexes, restaurants, high end retail and upscale condos. There was even discussion about putting Miller Park downtown. And it was only a couple of months ago that the bid to lure the Kohl's corporate headquarters failed. There sure were plans. But that's all they were... plans.

Mayor Norquist had big dreams. It turns out, at least so far, that they were pipe dreams. There are 16 acres of land that sit where the Park East once stood. One of them is in the process of being developed. Just this month the Milwaukee School of Engineering began building a parking structure which will be topped with a college soccer field. That's it.  The other 15 acres are still vacant.

And it looks like hell.  It's embarrassing when you're driving down to the BMO Harris Bradley Center or taking in Water Street for a drink with out of town company and they ask what the heck the moonscape looking parcels are for. This afternoon Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele told Wisconsin's Afternoon New, "It looks like a desert down there. No development, no jobs and no selling point for anything."

There have been several issues that has made it very difficult to develop a project down there. First and foremost is the fact that much of what needs to be done down there requires a mixture of city and county approvals. That's like asking Wisconsin Republicans and Wisconsin Democrats to agree on... well.. anything.

Now Abele has put together and Advisory Group to discuss the future of the Park East corridor. The group consists of developers, lawmakers, and expert stakeholders. Will they accomplish anything? Will actual buildings go into the area anytime soon? Who knows?

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