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Milwaukee County Board grants Innovation Park extension

By Joe Lanane

The Milwaukee County Board approved an extension Thursday that will allow University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee real estate officials more time to purchase County Grounds land for its Innovation Park project.

UW-Milwaukee officials will have until Jan. 15 to pay the first $5 million toward the $13.55 million land purchase. The Innovation Park project is to be divided into three phases starting in 2011, with each stage depending on the number of committed investors.

Innovation Park is to have historical and natural preservation areas as well as tax-exempt school buildings taking up nearly half of the property. An independent feasibility study suggested a $12 million tax incremental finance district approved by Wauwatosa can still be paid back in less than 20 years — earlier than the 27-year maximum.

The lone dissenting vote came from Supervisor John Weishan, who accused UW-Milwaukee of stringing the county along by requesting its fourth extension.

“I just don’t think it’s a good way to do business,” Weishan said. “If they can’t make the simple $5 million payment by the end of this year, I would have very little faith they will make the next payment (by the end of 2011).”

But Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway said he recently met with Michael Lovell, interim UW-Milwaukee chancellor, to verify the project was progressing as planned. He said he left the meeting reassured.

“This is a major situation, so we can afford to be a little more patient,” Holloway said. “I have some concerns like you guys … but we should give them at least one more extension.”

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