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FPC Live gets zoning committee approval, construction leaders voice support

A Milwaukee zoning committee gave approval for an FPC Live venue in the Deer District at a meeting on Tuesday. The development will have to get final approval from the Common Council. (Photo courtesy of FPC Live)

A city meeting for the incoming FPC Live venue in Milwaukee’s downtown was the center of support from construction union labor advocates and concerns from other venue owners on Tuesday.

The Zoning, Neighborhood and Development Committee voted unanimously to approve two changes to zoning around a pair of concert halls with capacities for 400 and 8,000 people at 1001 Vel R. Phillips Ave. City officials held an hours-long public hearing with concerns from opposing small business owners and support from construction professionals.

The company announced a project labor agreement with construction manager Miron Construction and JCP Construction on Oct. 10. The PLA guaranteed good-paying jobs, union labor and provisions that would benefit the surrounding community, Building Advantage Executive Director Chris Mambu Rasch said at the meeting.

The agreement secured full union work: 25% of labor from Milwaukee County residents, 25% from minority subcontractors, 15% of labor hours to apprentices and a target for 5% of the workforce to be made of women, Rasch said. The deal would also set expectations and standards for future Milwaukee developments, he added.

“The deal before you is one that lifts up the entire community, provides labor protections and provides money to the city,” Rasch said. “At the contractors and unions I work for, the choice is clear: It’s a good deal for the city and the project will create good-paying union jobs.”

Clifton Phelps, the vice president of Business and Development at Milwaukee-based JCP Construction, said the deal was a good opportunity for his firm. His company workforce was made up of primarily both Milwaukeeans and people of color, and working on the project would give the company a chance to expand.

“From the personal side and being a long-term Milwaukee resident, I think it’d be great for downtown,” Phelps said. “There’s a lot of politics involved in terms of opposition and our team making sure it’s going forward, but when you see downtown thrive you get excited by projects like this.”

Having a requirement for apprenticeship hours and other employment provisions would put disadvantaged people on a pipeline to the middle class through career trades, Milwaukee Building Construction Trades Council President Dan Bukiewicz said at the meeting. “It’s not often do I get a call on the phone asking if I want to make a difference in the community,” he added.

The Milwaukee Turners, who own the venue adjacent to where the FPC Live venue will go, asked the city to delay its approval for time to evaluate traffic and safety plans, Milwaukee Turners Executive Director Emilio De Torre said during the meeting.

“We continue to have strong concerns about what this new music venue — operated by industry giant FPC, Live Nation/Ticketmaster — will have on the revenue that we generate by leasing to Pabst Theater Group,” De Torre wrote in a letter prior to the meeting. FPC Live is party owned by Live Nation, and Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010.

A group of local venue operators under the name Save MKE’s Music Scene LLC said the venues would take away 135 events and shows that would otherwise play at other Milwaukee venues, “destroying the viability of Milwaukee’s current vibrant music scene,” the group’s website said. Listed partners included the Cactus Club and the Pabst Theater Group.

Charlie Goldstone, the president of Frank Productions, said while he couldn’t predict the relationship between the 400- and 8,000-capacity venues and the rest of the city’s clubs and theaters, Milwaukee had to maintain and secure its position to grab bigger artists while other midwestern cities like Des Moines and Saint Louis were putting up state-of-the-art facilities.

Alderman Scott Spiker asked if owners at Turner Hall and other clubs were unaware of this fact, and if their concern would dissipate if they did. Goldstone said he couldn’t speak for Milwaukee’s experience but had put up The Sylvee in Madison after receiving local pushback, and added it wasn’t guaranteed the concert hall there would put other venues out of business.

Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin said there was a huge opportunity for growth on all ends through the project and said venues like Cactus Club and the Rave had a “different show footprint” than the proposed project.

“I don’t necessarily see this, on a show basis, as a large competition,” Feigin said at the meeting. “There’s different numbers and setups. This setup is to build a platform for Milwaukee to compete at a national level.”

Alderman Bob Bauman, who oversees the 4th District where the project will be built, seemed to rebuke other alderpersons when Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic asked if the project would be supported by public money. He said the city would get money back as the venue would be built in a tax increment district.

“There is no public subsidy to this project,” Bauman said at the meeting. He also warned of staying away from competitive issues when reviewing a zoning decision.

After getting the committee’s approval, the project will likely go before the Common Council in November. Crews are expected to break ground later this fall and complete building in early 2024.

About Ethan Duran

Ethan Duran is the construction and development reporter at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (414) 551-7505 or [email protected]

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