A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!
After tonight's presentation of the UWM Innovation Park plan for development on the Milwaukee County Grounds, Bobby Pantuso (5th district alder candidate) asked me and fellow blogger Tom Gaertner whether we were all going to blog on the same thing. I shook my head no.
Then I changed my mind.
The plan presented by Lora Strigens of HGA Architects & Engineers was a good plan--arguably better than the Kubala-Washato plan approved in 2004, if only because it had more current data to work with.
My friends who are involved with the Monarch Trail and other conservancy groups may not agree with me, and I'll gladly share their viewpoints if they send them along here.
But the plan we saw tonight appeared to honor the spirit of the original plan and then some. It had better road access, less surface parking, better use of the land, and was pretty visually appealing. It paid attention to stormwater management and nifty newer "green" building approaches. And it had worked the habitat for preservation into the plan better.
If Mayor Didier seemed to jump the gun on asking for an endorsement for the plan last week, it could well be because, having seen it, she was excited by it and thought others would be, too. Having seen it, I'd be comfortable with an endorsement, too.
If that were what we would get.
The only problem is that, Monarch Trail and Eschweiler buildings aside, the plan is largely an exercise in wishful thinking and best-case scenarios. Only one building on the plan, the first engineering school or research building (I'm fuzzy about which) planned for just west of the existing Parks Department building along Watertown Plank Road is in the probablity stage.
The rest is up for grabs. It could happen as laid out. Or something quite different might arise.
The plan for including housing may be a surprise to people. Some 200 units would be included around and incorporating the Eschweiler buildings. The plan calls for high-end rentals aimed at Medical College, UW-Milwaukee engineering school faculty and grad students, and others. If they built it, I'd live there in a heartbeat. I think it would be very desirable housing--at least until the Department of Transportation has its way with their chunk of the land that runs along the southwest border of this parcel.
HGA did a good job of clustering the research and academic buildings and keeping decent, natural greenspace. But UWM will build slowly, one building at a time, as the State approves and as budgets allow. Developers of research and residential spaces will come in with their own ideas.
I don't know how much power Tosa or anyone has to see to it that development is as good as the plan we saw. I suspect fairly little. But let's not fault the plan because our processes fall short. Instead, let's look at the processes.
At this point, I'm wondering more about the other chunk of land around or including the swales referred to as a "future county park." There's vague talk about that, about its recreational uses. Is there a budet for this new park? It seems that good efforts toward having that land maintained as prairie and woodlots (not soccer fields) would go a greater distance than efforts to stop development of UWM portion.
Second edit: Added March 3 from a note from Barb Agnew:
Yes, I agree that the spirit of and concepts were all addressed last nite.
I will continue to watch how each plan phase impacts the public access and our ability to enjoy the space.
One area I will watch: typically, when there are high end residential units they are designed to be an enclosed/more private arrangement and I will hope the development company can design with the notion that many people will wish to walk through between the oaks and the sycamore, enjoy the historic buildings etc. I will work on that concept.
Also, when the real estate foundation flips the residential area, the habitat zone will be severed somewhat but still owned by the foundation. This distance from their project will make it difficult for them to be involved in the restoration and maintenance outlined in the habitat plan. (Other experts have expressed concerns about this and a few other things). So yes, I am happy with their redesign to accommodate the concept of developing in an environmental corridor. And yes, I will continue to make certain the spirit of the document lives on.