Common Council approves 4th St. pedestrian mall as part of new arena district

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Common Council on Friday approved an agreement with the Milwaukee Bucks to close a block of N. 4th St. to traffic and turn it into a pedestrian mall to complement the team’s new arena.

The N. 4th St. pedestrian mall will occupy the block of N. 4th St. between Highland and Juneau.

“It will remain a public space, and a publicly-owned space, just under the care and maintenance of the Bucks,” said Ald. Bob Bauman, who represents the area.

Bauman said the hope is the pedestrian mall will attract businesses and other economic development.

He said the agreement between the city and the team that the council approved Friday is a 30-year lease. But Bauman said the city can pull the plug on it early if the economic gains don’t materialize.

He said the block would then once again be turned into part of the street. Bauman said the details of who would pay for that haven’t been stipulated in the current agreement.

“The Bucks were very adamant that this is a key piece of their overall plan to redevelop the arena district,” Bauman said.

“The public is investing a lot in the project, and the Bucks are investing a lot in the project,” he said. “I think it’s reasonable to give them the opportunity to demonstrate this plaza will work.”

The new arena will cost more than $500 million. Public money from the state, city, county and the Wisconsin Center District accounts for $250 million. The team’s current owners and former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl will contribute $274 million.

Ald. Mark Borkowski was the lone council member to oppose the idea of the pedestrian mall and the lease with the Bucks.

“We’ve had the Bradley Center, the current arena, for a number of years. Now, all of a sudden, we need to close off the street?” Borkowski said. “I don’t see the need for it.”

Borkowski said he has questions about who the vendors and businesses that occupy the space in the pedestrian mall will be.

“Are local vendors going to get first opportunity?” he said.

Borkowski said he believes any restaurants, stores or vendors located on the block of N. 4th St. turned into the pedestrian mall will have an unfair advantage over other surrounding businesses because they’ll be more easily accessible to fans leaving Bucks games.

Bauman said the pedestrian mall is supposed to be finished around the same time as the new Bucks arena, in the fall of 2018. 

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