Milwaukee Art Museum officials say they intend to take steps to purchase O'Donnell Park

MILWAUKEE COUNTY -- Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and Supervisor Gerry Broderick, Chairman of the Parks, Energy and Environment Committee, said Tuesday, July 21st they're encouraged by testimony from Milwaukee Art Museum officials about the opportunity for MAM to partner with the county on O’Donnell Park in a public-to-public partnership that would benefit the public and the Art Museum.

At a meeting of the Milwaukee County Board's Parks, Energy and Environment Committee Tuesday, Art Museum officials said they intent to take steps to purchase the O'Donnell Park parking structure -- saying it will be expensive, but they feel it is necessary. The Milwaukee Business Journal reports the museum intends to preserve the O'Donnell Park parking structure property because it and other lakefront stakeholders need the parking spaces.

The Milwaukee Business Journal says Milwaukee Art Museum officials have been studying O’Donnell Park since spring to decide whether they want to make a bid to buy the structure. They were analyzing the structure’s structural condition and the revenue from its parking and other leased spaces to decide whether a deal could be done.

The committee passed the plan with a 6-0 vote -- and the issue was referred to the Capital Improvements Committee.

The next step involves coming to an agreement regarding a purchase price with county officials.

“This public-to-public partnership is an idea that greatly benefits the public and that Milwaukee Art Museum, Dimitrijevic said. “I am highly encouraged by the testimony of MAM officials regarding their continued interest and the feasibility of an agreement. The residents of Milwaukee County want to see this proposal move forward to preserve valuable open park space while proposing the kind of visual enhancements that only the MAM can offer.”

Broderick said that linking the Art Museum and the park was a matter of common sense.

“Many people who visit the Milwaukee Art Museum park at the O’Donnell Park garage,” Broderick said. “One can only imagine how the park would look with the vision of the Art Museum fully engaged in creating a beautiful new public space. The park could truly become the gateway to Milwaukee’s lakefront.”

Dimitrijevic said creating a public-to-public partnership would guarantee the public will have access to O’Donnell Park’s open space for years to come.

“This proposed agreement would bring real value to the community by enhancing open space and creating new beauty in the park. I am encouraged by the progress made so far. This is a bold and necessary conversation on the lakefront’s future, and these talks are moving forward. Because the Milwaukee Art Museum is our community partner, we look forward to creating a public-to-public partnership that creates a spectacular new vista that will access to enhance the lakefront for decades.”

O’Donnell Park has been among the recent points of disagreement between the Milwaukee County Board and County Executive Chris Abele. Abele last year backed the proposal to sell the property to Northwestern Mutual, but the County Board rejected the company’s offer.

The Milwaukee Business Journal says Abele also refused to endorse exclusive negotiations with the Art Museum, instead favoring a competitive request for proposals for the lakefront property. The Art Museum would have to negotiate directly with Abele and his economic development appointees to buy the property.

CLICK HERE for more on this story via the Milwaukee Business Journal.