A strategy to preserve land during construction of a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus in Wauwatosa is polarizing the project developer and environmentalists.
The UWM Real Estate Foundation Inc., which is developing the project, accepts the strategy even though it will force a complete redesign of the engineering campus.
“We need to rework our entire plan, which is again part of the stress of timing,” said David Gilbert, president of the nonprofit foundation.
Environmentalists argue the county’s preservation strategy is not good enough.
“It has been years in the making,” Barb Agnew, chairwoman of the Friends of the Monarch Trail environmental group, said of the campus plan. “Just a little more time should be allowed just to make sure there are not obstacles in the future.”
Milwaukee County must approve a plan to preserve portions of the property before selling 89 acres of undeveloped land to the UWM Real Estate Foundation for the campus. The land is east of U.S. Highway 45, north of Watertown Plank Road and south of Swan Boulevard.
County Board members are considering creation of a park on more than 50 acres of the easternmost portion of the land and protection of 14 acres in the northwest corner.
Construction would be allowed on land south of the 14-acre protected parcel.
The strategy also would allow construction of a road and campus buildings on 13 acres between the two protected areas.
Environmental groups, trying to preserve the land for monarch butterflies and other wildlife, want to protect that parcel, referred to by county planners as Outlot 1.
“I’m not conceding Outlot 1,” said Cheryl Nenn, interim executive director for the environmental group Milwaukee Riverkeeper.
Agnew said she does not oppose the road through Outlot 1, but she wants more development limits for the UW-Milwaukee buildings. She said environmentalists probably will object any new building on Outlot 1.
The latest preservation plan is the result of months of negotiation involving the UWM Real Estate Foundation, county real estate and parks representatives, and environmental organizations.
Once the county approves a plan, the foundation must submit a development proposal to the city of Wauwatosa for zoning approval.
Gilbert said the foundation in November, in the interest of developing the preservation plan, delayed seeking that approval. He said the foundation originally did not expect to be able to build on Outlot 1, so the change forces the planning team to come up with new designs for the property.
The foundation’s option to buy the land expires April 30, Gilbert said, so he wants to have plans approved before that so construction can begin next year.
“I’m still optimistic,” he said, “I think we’re going to get this project done.”
The Milwaukee County Board Committee on Economic and Community Development on Monday delayed a vote on the proposal. Committee Chairwoman Toni Clark said she will schedule a special meeting to consider the plan before the County Board meets Dec. 17.