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Politics & Government

Milwaukee County Board Members Float New Idea for O'Donnell Parking Structure

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Susan Bence
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There's an effort afoot to sale or lease the O'Donnell parking structure to the Milwaukee Art Museum

The O’Donnell parking garage in downtown Milwaukee is in need of repair, and it’s no secret that some supervisors want the structure off county books. The County Board may vote Thursday on whether to enter into talks with the Milwaukee Art Museum to either buy or lease the property.

Back in December the Milwaukee County Board decided against selling O’Donnell Park and its parking structure to Northwestern Mutual. The main concern was public access. Now, Supervisor Gerry Broderick says the solution to what to do with the property might lie - right across the street. The Milwaukee Art Museum.

“You know once expressed I thought well duh. It such a natural, it does so much for the community while at the same time answering those who would like to see the O’Donnell go off the county property rolls,” Broderick says.

Broderick says the missions of the county and the art museum are similar.

“I think the public benefits greatly. My assumption is the talks would ultimately result in that being kept open to the public, accessible to the public. You know, if it’s owned by the art museum it’s a very different thing than it would be if it was owned by a private for-profit corporation,” Broderick says.

Broderick hopes the board voted today to enter into talks with the art museum to take over or lease the O’Donnell Park property. He says the sale price would remain $12.7 million.

“All of those figures are being held constant so if someone favored the sale to Northwestern Mutual, my assumption would be that they would also favor the sale or the lease to the art museum,” Broderick says.

But Supervisor Steve Taylor says the timing is curious. The county board is also scheduled to vote today, on a resolution he put forward. It asks companies to submit proposals for the parking structure and the greenspace on its roof.

“Here you have a last minute pitch that kind of is like an alternative to seeing what’s out there. So I question the timing of it,” Taylor says.

Taylor favored the sale of O’Donnell to NML. He says some supervisors wondered if other companies might be interested. He says they should have that same concern when it comes to the art museum.

“This is just a single source. The said how do we know what deal we can get when we’ve only been talking to Northwestern Mutual. How do you know there’s not other interested parties that would offer more or a better deal? And we haven’t had that opportunity because we haven’t done and RFP. And here, we’re now what, about to negotiate with the art museum? Isn’t the same argument still there?” Taylor says.

Taylor says his proposal makes the most sense, because in theory the best offer or deal would win. He says people who disagree with him are pushing the art museum idea, but adds that there’s nothing wrong with knowing your options.

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