A Look At The Marcus Center's Proposed Redesign

Apr 1, 2019

Updated 5:55 p.m.

The fate of the proposed redesign of the Marcus Performing Arts Center is still undecided. The initial plan included removing the Dan Kiley-designed grove of chestnut trees, which is along the east side of the Milwaukee River adjacent to the Peck Pavilion.

Public reaction was swift and strongly opposed the destruction of the grove. So much so that Milwaukee's Historic Preservation Commission voted to give the entire site a temporary historic designation, stopping any demolition or construction until final determination was made.

In a 4-1 vote, the commission decided Monday afternoon to make the historic designation permanent. But this isn't the final step, as it still has to be approved by the city council. If approved, the Marcus Center would need permission to make any changes, including removing or altering the grove beyond basic maintenance. 

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts | Masterplan Phase 1
Credit Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

READ: Why Many Milwaukeeans Want To Preserve Dan Kiley's Chestnut Trees

Paul Matthews, the CEO and president of the Marcus Center, addresses the controversy surrounding the grove: "At some point, when those trees start to age out, something has to be done on the grove. You know, the Marcus Center 20 years ago contacted the Kiley office and asked, 'What do we do when these trees start to die?' and they said, 'You cut them.' "

Jim Fields, the lead architect on the project, discusses the new and improved outdoor space: "Sixteen very mature trees, which have already been selected ... they're a much better urban tree to allow shade and light on those grounds. So, we think [Kiley] did a good job of honoring the history of the grove, and, at the same time, we're adapting it so we can get greater use for free community programming on the grounds."