Wisconsin Center District officials announced Friday that they plan to take the next couple of months to consider competing proposals for the development of a 2-acre site lying near the intersection of North 4th Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee.
Local officials have received two separate proposals for the redevelopment of the city-owned parcel, which lies directly south of the district’s convention center and is now used as a parking lot. The developers behind those proposals made presentations before the district’s Board of Directors on Friday.
Milwaukee-based Marcus Corp.’s plans call for adding 276 rooms to the existing Hilton hotel. The change would bring the total number of rooms there to 1,005. The additional accommodations would be built across North 5th Street from the existing Hilton building, which would be connected to the new structure with a skywalk.
The plans also call for the construction of a new apartment tower, which would contain up to 200 units, and an additional 61,500 square feet of meeting space. Of that new meeting space, 15,000 square feet would be built at the new structure at 4th and Wisconsin and the rest at the Hilton hotel.
In a competing proposal, Milwaukee-based Jackson Street Holdings is calling for the addition of 103,000 square feet of convention space and of 60,000 square feet of space for use in social gatherings. The plans would also add three hotels, which would have 506 rooms in total.
One of the biggest differences in the proposals lies in the plans for adding hotels. Jackson Street Holdings officials said their research suggests travelers want options beyond the giant, 1,000-room hotels now found in many cities. Representatives of Marcus Corp. meanwhile argued that other cities can use their large hotels to gain an advantage over Milwaukee when competing for conventions.
One point of agreement between the two developers: Milwaukee should have more convention space.
“We have to expand our convention center,” said Greg Marcus, president and chief executive of Marcus Corp. “We can’t support more rooms here now without it.”
Even though the Wisconsin Center District will have a strong influence over which developer is selected to buy the site at 4th and Wisconsin, the choice will ultimately fall to the city. City officials have said they will sell the parcel as long as the chosen developer’s plans allow for a further extension of the city’s downtown streetcar.
Construction is already underway on the streetcar’s initial 2.1-mile downtown loop, as well as on a 0.4-mile line that will bring the project to the city’s lakefront. Milwaukee officials have said they would also like to see the line extended north from St. Paul Avenue along sections of 5th and 4th streets. The proposed extension would eventually make its way to the doorstep of the new arena being built for the Milwaukee Bucks, just northwest of where 4th Street meets West Highland Avenue. As part of the 4th and Wisconsin redevelopment project, city officials have pledged to cover any costs related to building and maintaining the streetcar line.
Scott Neitzel, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration and chairman of the WCD Board of Directors, said on Friday that the board would meet with consultants to go over a “strategic analysis” of the convention center’s biggest needs and its financial situation. The board will then discuss the proposals in more detail in March, Neitzel said. Follow @alexzank