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Westown Neighbors Suggest Standards for New Bucks Complex

Michael McNamara
The Milwaukee Bucks hope to break ground as early as October on the Park East land.

Several hope the new basketball arena and entertainment complex carry over the theme and ambience of Milwaukee's Old World Third Street and its German heritage.

The Bucks have invited several nearby stakeholders to offer suggestions Tuesday night at the Bradley Center, now that team owners hope to break ground by October on land north of downtown.

Jeremy Fojut, Newaukee'schief idea officer, says he was thrilled when he first heard of plans to build a new downtown basketball arena, and especially on land that has stood vacant for more than 15 years – ever since the state razed nearby freeway lanes. As for the adjoining entertainment complex, Fojut hopes it will incorporate locally owned shops and restaurants.

“I would be afraid if they’d go to the big box, kind of corporate type of way. There’s a good mix that could happen in there, maybe even half and half. But, you want that incubation of small businesses that already exist on Old World Third Street,” Fojut says.

Fojut say he wants the complex to include a year-round outdoor entertainment area. As a life-long Milwaukeean, he knows that winters can leave the neighborhood rather desolate, when there are no games.

Stacie Callies, executive director of the Westown Association,also has high hopes for the new venue.

“This is a once-in-a-generation, $1 billion economic development project. This could define Westown for a very long time moving forward,” Callies says.

Shes hopes the development matches the existing character of the neighborhood.

“When you walk down Old World Third Street, you really get this taste of local flavor of Milwaukee. You see businesses like Usinger’s, the Spice House, you see the old German beer hall and, of course, Mader’s, which has been there forever. It really gives you a snapshot of Milwaukee and we’re hoping for something similar within their planned entertainment district,” Callies says.

Matt Dorner of the Business Improvement District,Milwaukee Downtown agrees that it’ll be important for the complex to blend in with the rest of the neighborhood.

“How are we connecting with the existing urban fabric so it doesn’t feel like all of a sudden you are transitioning into, a stark difference between one side of the street to the other. It’s about making the pedestrian and the visitors feel like they’re seamlessly flowing into and out of the district,” Dorner says.

Dorner hopes the development generates a lot of foot traffic in Westown and leads to a new residential component.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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