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PabstCity project rejected

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett accuses aldermen who rejected PabstCity of ducking and running from a heated public debate. Sounding sterner than usual, Barrett accused project opponents of spreading misinformation, questioned Alderman Donovan’s reasons for rejecting the project and labeled city bar owners that opposed the project as status quo naysayers.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, angry with the Common Council’s 9-6 rejection
of PabstCity, challenged the project opposition to come forward with alternate
plans.

“I want them to bring these investors in, I will work with them,”
Barrett said in his office after the vote. “Am I mad? Yes. Am I more determined
than ever to move the city forward? Absolutely.”

Craig Peterson, president and CEO of Zigman Joseph Stephenson, the consultants
that lead the project opposition, said the mayor’s call would be answered.

Peterson said he couldn’t discuss the details of who would step up to
redevelop the Pabst Brewery. He said they were wary of coming forward while
the city was considering a $41 million PabstCity tax incremental financing district
because they didn’t want to get tied into the debate.

“I think people will be going to City Hall; in fact I know they will
be,” he said on his cell phone between post-victory toasts. “I can
say that I have seen the renderings. There are potential developers that have
already poured thousands of dollars on this site.”

WisPark LLC, which is part of the Juneau Avenue Partners group that owns the
Pabst Brewery, would not say what it would do next, said spokeswoman Wendy Parks.

“A this point, it’s too early to speculate our next step,”
she said. “We don’t want to speculate any further.”

Historic buildings

James Haertel, who owns three Pabst Brewery buildings through the Brew City
Redevelopment Group, said he would stick to his plan of preserving his share
of the complex to create a Hofbrauhause tavern and museum of beer and brewing.
WisPark, along with The Ferchill Group, signed an agreement in 2002 with Haertel
to give him a 5 percent ownership in the Pabst Brewery redevelopment.

“Everything was fine with this project until they got too aggressive
about tearing down our history,” he said about WisPark and Ferchill. “I
hope the developers can see the mistake in the previous plan and revise it.
I think WisPark is a great company that made a mistake.”

Much of the Common Council’s debate before vote centered on the job opportunities
PabstCity could create for Milwaukee residents.

“There are 1,000 families in the city of Milwaukee who will not have
jobs as a result of the action the Common Council took today,” Barrett
said, referencing the number of construction workers who would redevelop the
brewery.

Aldermen Willie Wade, Joe Davis and Ashanti Hamilton, who voted for the project,
touted the higher-than-usual 25 percent emerging business enterprise and 30
percent Resident Preference Program requirements for the project. Wade said
a huge project like PabstCity could give Milwaukee minority contractors and
city residents the chance to grow their businesses and skills so they could
pursue projects in the Park East, Bronzeville or Menomonee Valley.

“We have all these development projects coming up, but we don’t
have the work force with the skills to participate in it,” he said. “Right
now, we have a crisis going on in the city of Milwaukee with young people. Young
people need jobs.”

The right kind of jobs?

Project opponents focused on the post-construction jobs the project’s
retail component would create. Aldermen Michael D’Amato and Tony Zeilinski
said a $41 million TIF investment from the city should create more economic
benefit than PabstCity was offering.

“We don’t need to spend $40 million to craft more minimum wage,
more part-time jobs,” D’Amato said. “We already have them.”

Barrett said he didn’t know if the vote signaled the end of PabstCity
but said his door was open to any group of investors with a serious plan for
the Pabst Brewery site.

“I hope not, I don’t know,” he said when asked if Tuesday
marked the project’s funeral. “I’m going to have to talk to
the people from WisPark and see where they’ll be coming from.”

Sean Ryan can be reached at 414-276-0273, Ext. 107, or by email.

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