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County OKs UWM land sale

Sean Ryan
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The Milwaukee County Board on Thursday approved 15-4 the sale of Milwaukee County land in Wauwatosa to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for construction of an engineering campus.

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors also considered and rejected suggestions ranging from tabling a decision to requiring the county give $2 million from its portion of the land sale toward an engineering scholarship program for women and minorities.

County Executive Scott Walker is expected to approve the sale, said Fran McLaughlin, director of communications.

The four supervisors that voted against the sale are Marina Dimitrijevic, Christopher Larson, Theo Lipscomb and John Weishan Jr.

The proposed $13.55 million sale would transfer 89 acres of the Milwaukee County grounds in Wauwatosa to the university. The property is north of Watertown Plank Road and east of Highway 45.

The UW-Milwaukee plans to build a new campus housing research programs for the College of Engineering & Applied Science. The property also would provide space for private research companies.

The sale requires the university to build academic buildings totaling 450,000 square feet on the property, but allows up to half of the property to be owned or used by private companies.

County Supervisor John Weishan Jr., one of the four to vote against the sale, unsuccessfully tried to put more limits on what the university can build on the property. His amendment would have prohibited the construction of shops, restaurants, hotels, dormitories or other housing on the site unless the building had multiple uses.

Weishan said the amendment would have prevented the university from developing buildings that do not relate to research and university functions.

“Will UWM sell this land five years from now?” he asked. “Once we sell it to UWM, we have no control over it. It is gone.”

Supervisor James “Luigi” Schmitt, who represents the district that includes the Milwaukee County grounds, pointed out the city of Wauwatosa approves all development on the site.

The historic Eschweiler buildings, which are on the property, will be renovated for companies — such as restaurants, offices, coffee shops or a bed and breakfast — to serve the campus, said David Gilbert, president of the UWM Real Estate Foundation.

Gilbert said the university and county have 180 days to iron out legal fine print of the contract. The university wants to start installing utilities, such as electrical, sewer and water, in summer 2010, he said.

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