Art Museum one step closer to owning nearby park

Posted at 12:34 PM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 13:34:04-05

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Art Museum is a step closer to owning O’Donnell Park, and the parking structure that goes with it.

The museum’s proposal to assume ownership of its facilities and the O’Donnell Property passed the county’s Finance, Personnel and Audit Committee 7 to 1 on Thursday.

“It’s important we own these buildings so we can control our own destiny regarding the repairs and replacement of things up to museum standards,” said Dan Keegan, the Director of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The Museum wants to assume ownership of the properties, but not the land underneath, for no up front cost.

But as a condition of the ownership of the properties being transferred over, the Milwaukee Art Museum would assume all the maintenance and repair costs. Those are currently paid for with taxpayer dollars in accordance with an 84-year lease between the museum and the county.

Keegan said assuming those costs, currently estimated at $28.8-million, is the price of the deal. He said the repairs and maintenance would be paid for using revenue generated from the O’Donnell parking garage.

“The income stream from the O’Donnell Property provides the funds to make those repairs,” Keegan said.

The O’Donnell property also includes a park. Keegan said the plan is to eventually renovate that and install a sculpture walk.

County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, Sr. said he backs the plan because it would keep all the facilities open to the public. He said it also will save taxpayers money.

“This deal is able to save hundreds of millions of dollars for the county over the next 80 years,” Lipscomb said.

But Sup. Michael Mayo, Sr. said he’s concerned the museum will not be paying for the buildings. He said, while he expects the museum to do good things with the lake front, he wishes the sale was resulting in a sum of money that could be invested into other facilities in the Milwaukee County parks system.

“No cash, no vote,” Mayo said.

Mayo was the lone member of the Finance, Audit and Personnel Committee to vote against the proposal. The full county board is expected to take it up next Thursday.