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Potawatomi hotel expansion wins Milwaukee panel endorsement

The proposed expansion of the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino got its first key endorsement from a panel of Milwaukee officials on Monday.

The Forest County Potawatomi Community, which owns the hotel and casino on West Canal Street in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley area, announced plans this spring to add a second hotel wing.

According to development plans filed to the city, the 19-story wing would add from 119 to 179 rooms, bringing the total room count up to as much as 580. A four-level infill area between the new and existing hotel wings could possibly include meeting rooms, kitchens, mechanical- and electrical-service areas, a spa and a link between the new tower and the casino.

Minneapolis-based Cuningham Group Architecture is leading the design team for the project.

A second hotel wing would allow the hotel and casino to attract more overnight visitors from outside the Milwaukee metro area, according to the plans. It would also provide about 50 additional full-time jobs.

Before moving forward on the project, Potawatomi officials still must have their detailed plans approved by city leaders, including the Common Council.

That process got off to a good start Monday afternoon, when members of the City Plan Commission recommended that the city’s Common Council give the plans an approval.

The recommendation was passed unanimously.

Ken Kraemer, executive director of Building Advantage, a group that promotes the hiring of union construction workers, said the Potawatomi project would create 2,100 jobs, about half of which would be directly involved in the construction of the new tower.

Kraemer noted that this project is just the latest example of the ongoing building boom being seen in Milwaukee and nearby places. This means plenty of work for those in the construction trades.

“Economic development leads to workforce development,” he said, later adding, “we look forward to helping them build (the hotel).”

The hotel and casino opened in 1991 as a bingo hall, and has since undergone several expansions. The most recent major expansion was completed in 2008.

Even at that time, officials already had the groundwork in place to build additions to the casino. The second hotel wing will be built on the hotel’s existing foundation.

With all the work, one thing won’t need to be changed at the Potawatomi site. Its parking garage was built six stories tall and has 1,309 parking spaces, making it already large enough to accommodate the additional traffic the second hotel wing is expected to attract.

The development plans noted the parking structure, built in 2015, was originally planned to be only two stories tall and have 481 parking spaces.

The casino has 2,500 slot machines, nearly 100 table games, a 1,300-seat bingo hall, seven restaurants and a 500-seat theater. The hotel and casino have more than 6 million visits a year, and employ roughly 2,665 people.

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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