Not All on Board as Abele Sells Park East Land for a Buck to the Bucks

Sep 9, 2015

The Milwaukee Bucks owners promise to transform the former freeway land into a basketball arena and entertainment district that will create more than 3,700 jobs, about 1,000 of them permanent. The owners and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced the deal Wednesday afternoon, on the corner of 4th and Juneau, with representatives of organized labor in attendance.

Planners say that over the next nine years, they will create $400 million in mixed-use development including retail space, apartments and a public plaza, in addition to a basketball arena.

“I’m thrilled to finalize the Park East sale so we can get to work transforming an empty, unused space into a vibrant development that will serve as an economic engine of Milwaukee County for years to come and keep the Bucks right here in Milwaukee,” Abele said.

The land has sat largely empty since crews removed the Park East Freeway in 2002. The land is appraised at $8.8 million.

County Supervisor Michael Mayo is among the board members who say they are happy Milwaukee will retain an NBA team, but doubt the Park East deal best served the needs of residents.

"We still have a lot of infrastructure that needs repair, especially in our parks. Is this really the best deal the County Executive could have negotiated? Where did he get his negotiating skills? He should have been thinking about the County’s needs, not the Bucks’ needs.

"I hope those promises come to fruition, but I am a bit skeptical. “I’m looking for the best deal for taxpayers, and I’m not sure selling this valuable piece of land for $1 is in their best interests,” Mayo said.

The state has signed off on financing some of the eventual $500 million public cost of the new arena, while the City of Milwaukee is still debating its share. It may include building a new parking garage for the arena and helping with infrastructure improvements.