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Bucks plans headed for Common Council approval

In one of the final stages of city approvals needed for the construction of a new downtown Bucks arena, detailed plans for the $524 million structure and related developments secured a nod of approval from a group of Milwaukee lawmakers on Tuesday.

The Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee approved a set of zoning changes and plans for not only the arena itself but also a related training center and parking garage.

The project team argued the arena and nearby planned developments will help draw people to the city’s downtown. The entire project, including various auxiliary buildings, is to take up an eight-block area bordered by West McKinley Avenue to the north, West State Street to the south, North Old World 3rd Street to the east and 6th Street to the west.

“We see this as the next great neighborhood in Milwaukee,” said Brad Clark, a senior principal at Kansas City-based Populous Inc., the architect of the arena.

The plans presented Tuesday included some changes to the designs of both the proposed arena and nearby structures. One of modifications calls for space on the arena’s northwest side, near where West Juneau Avenue meets 6th Street, to be set aside for displays of public artwork.

That part of the project has been a source of concern for city officials. Several, including Alderman Nik Kovac, were worried the northwest side would not look particularly good, especially when compared with the arena’s north-side wall. That wall is to be a continuation of the roof, which will curve downward once it reaches the north edge of the building.

Bucks president Peter Feigin said Tuesday that the design team is aiming to cover as much of the wall at the northwest corner as possible.

In another change, designs for the training center that is to be put up northwest of the arena now call for the use of solar power.

A representative of one of the firms designing the training center said the proposed solar array would generate 100 kilowatts. That would provide 15 percent of the power needed for the building, said Greg Uhen, chief executive and design partner at Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects.

Of all the projects whose designs were presented Tuesday, only one met with a dissenting vote. Kovac declined to give his approval to a parking structure that is to be built to the north of the arena.

Kovac’s objections concerned the lack of plans for 70 apartments that are to be built to the west side of the parking structure. Kovac said the proposals up for a vote Tuesday contained no guarantee that the units would eventually be built.

Feigin responded by saying the team intends to complete the apartments at the same time as the parking garage. But because the units were not part of the original plans, they will have to be brought back before city officials as a separate proposal.

“For efficiency, for financial and for construction reasons, we’d love to do this simultaneously,” Feigin said, “and we think we can get that done.”

With Tuesday’s approval, the next step for zoning changes and project plans is to go before the city’s Common Council. The council is scheduled to take up the proposals May 24.

The arena, parking garage and training center are making up the first phase of the larger project. Also likely to be part of the initial work will be the construction of a so-called “live block” — an area that will blocked off to traffic to make it easy for fans to walk to restaurants and entertainment venues east of the arena.

Construction managers have already been selected for the three projects. Golden Valley-based M.A. Mortenson Co. will lead construction of the arena; J.P. Cullen & Sons, of Janesville, will manage the construction of the training center; and Madison-based J.H. Findorff & Son will serve as construction manager for the parking structure.

Construction on the arena is expected to begin in June.

About Alex Zank, [email protected]

Alex Zank is a construction reporter for The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 414-225-1820.

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