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County Supervisors Now Tackle Issue of What to Do With O'Donnell Park

S Bence

The topic of what to do with O’Donnell Park bounces back to Milwaukee County supervisors Tuesday.

In December, the County Board voted not to sell O’Donnell to Northwestern Mutual. The company planned to rehab the parking garage and its parkland. Supporters of the sale insisted the county can no longer afford to maintain the property. Opponents didn’t like the sale price, or the idea of selling a public space. Now they must decide what next?

O’Donnell Park in downtown Milwaukee is probably best known for its parking garage, not the green space on top. Supervisor Jason Haas says both are great assets.

“It’s actually nine acres of land right on the lakefront,” Haas says.

Haas opposed Northwestern Mutual’s bid to buy O’Donnell Park. On Tuesday, he’ll be one of three supervisors calling for the creation of a task force. It would recommend how the county should use the space.

“There’s these two beautiful rooftop plazas with greenspace on that rooftop overlooking Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World. It’s a beautiful view, and I think that if we get some activity in there, be it a beer garden or other attractions. That’ll give people a great reason to come down there and enjoy that wonderful space,” Haas says.

But O’Donnell has had problems. For example, a few years ago, the county had to scrape off the façade, after a chunk fell and killed a teenage boy. These days, the roof leaks.

“We need to address the membrane in the green roof, that’s about $1 million repair,” Haas says.

The parking garage brings in just over one million in revenue each year. Supervisor Steve Taylor says he’s afraid the cost of repairs could go well beyond the million dollars the county has to spend on the roof. Taylor says Northwestern Mutual anticipated spending $6.5 million.

“We’re looking at having $6.5 million worth of repairs on top of the $1.5 we were going to do,” Taylor says.

Taylor says he favored the sale of O’Donnell Park, and will now let the opponents figure out, what to do next.

“I don’t want to have any part of it. I don’t want to spend any money on it in repairing it. I’m not going to waste any of my time trying to figure out what to do with this facility,” Taylor says.

Taylor says he’ll also vote against giving the assignment to a task force. The County Board’s Parks Committee will start considering the possibilities Tuesday.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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