A four-month redesign of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee engineering campus in Wauwatosa has delayed the project but calmed environmental opposition.
The most vocal opponents of the campus plan have been environmentalists trying to protect a butterfly habitat on the Milwaukee County Grounds, which is where the Innovation Park project would be built. But Barb Agnew, chairwoman of the Friends of the Monarch Trail environmental group, said she thinks the latest plan, which includes preservation of the butterfly habitat, is acceptable.
“I’m happy with how it looks on paper,” she said.
In order to respond to environmental concerns about the campus, the UWM Real Estate Foundation Inc. is asking Milwaukee County for a four-month extension of the foundation’s plan to buy 89 acres from the county for the campus. The original agreement gave the foundation until the end of March to line up zoning approval from Wauwatosa. The foundation would then draw up the final documents for the land sale.
Now, the foundation wants to extend the deal to the end of July.
“We were pretty close to submitting our zoning appeal to Wauwatosa in November,” said Bruce Block, chairman of the foundation, “and that’s when the revised habitat plan hit.”
The foundation, between November and February, redesigned its campus proposal to match a preservation plan drafted by UW-Milwaukee scientists and environmentalists. The new plan opens up more land for development — 59.5 acres versus 58 acres in the original design.
The habitat preservation plan that dictated the new design was more specific than earlier rough drafts of preservation areas for the site, said Lora Strigens, planner and project manager with Milwaukee-based HGA Architects and Engineers, the Innovation Park architect.
“Understanding the sensitivity of that area,” she said, “and just getting that outlined, that made us change how the development was laid out.”
The revised campus plan will preserve 11.4 acres surrounding the historic Eschweiler buildings on the northern portion of the campus. Those buildings are slated to be renovated into apartments.
The current proposal is for the foundation to sell property near the preservation area for new apartments and to cluster UW-Milwaukee and private research buildings on the southern portion of the site.
Despite her satisfaction with the new design, Agnew said, she plans to seek more changes. For instance, she said, she wants the foundation to contribute money for parks and the restoration of undeveloped areas in the County Grounds.
The development of the campus will take years, so Agnew said she also will ask that the foundation not grade or disturb land until a final construction deal is in place.
Block said he anticipates the foundation can gain city approval for its plan before the end of July. The foundation will not have to pay for the option-to-purchase extension, which was endorsed by a Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors committee Monday, he said.
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