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Marcus Center’s 2.5-acre downtown garage new focus of city development

The city of Milwaukee and the Marcus Performing Arts Center are working on a request for proposal for the site at 1001 N. Water Street (Staff photo by Ethan Duran.)

City of Milwaukee and Marcus Performing Arts Center officials said they were planning a request for proposal (RFP) to redevelop a parking garage connected with the arts center on North Water and East Wells Streets.

The city and the arts center are working on a request for proposal (RFP) for nearly 2.5 acres of land at 1001 N. Water Street, a spokesperson for the Marcus Center said. The land is currently occupied by a 700-space parking garage, and arts center officials said the Marcus Center’s lease with the city is close to renewal.

The city wants to use the Marcus Center parking garage site for higher and better use, DCD Commissioner Lafayette Crump said in a statement.

“The City of Milwaukee has long envisioned the site of the Marcus Center parking garage as a potential site for a higher and better use. A redevelopment project at this catalytic location can help advance Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s vision of growing Milwaukee’s population, generating property tax revenue, boosting economic activity, and creating greater connectivity between Downtown’s vibrant entertainment districts. We are looking forward to releasing the RFP and meeting with interested developers in the near future,” Crump said.

The RFP is expected to be released in April, city officials said. The city designated the parking structure site for key development in the city’s 2010 Downtown Area Plan, and it looks like the next plan update this year will confirm the location for future development, city officials added.

“The Downtown Plan Update process will likely confirm that this location is ripe for a future catalytic development. With the Marcus Center parking lease up for renewal, the two teams came together and are working to prepare an RFP that will seek redevelopment prospects for this site,” a DCD spokesperson said.

The Common Council in 2021 resolved for the DCD to update the plan with the Downtown Business Improvement District, according to the city’s website. A new plan will be released in 2023.

The downtown area plan said mixed-use development with street level retail and entertainment options at the parcel would fill in the gap between bar and restaurants on the rest of Water Street.

Developer Mark Irgens proposed a project named Ovation Plaza in 2003, city officials said. The project was a finalist for a GE Healthcare office development. The plans for Ovation Plaza didn’t move forward and were eventually dropped, officials added.

The Michael Best & Friedrich law firm in 2012 considered being an anchor tenant in a proposed mixed-use development office building at the parking structure, city officials said. The proposal was called The Harmony Initiative, but the plans didn’t move forward. The law firm moved to the BMO Harris Tower, 790 N. Water Street, in April of 2020.

The BMO Harris Tower, completed in 2020, was one of the recent neighboring developments on Water Street. In December, Houston-based Hines kicked off construction for 333 N. Water Street, a 31-story luxury tower.

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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