Milwaukee Art Museum Makes Offer to Purchase O’Donnell Property

Posted on March 8th, 2016

The OverlookMilwaukee Art Museum Makes Offer to Purchase O’Donnell Property

Milwaukee, Wis. – March 8, 2016, 1:00 p.m. – In an unprecedented “public-to-public” transaction that will provide for the long-term preservation of public assets, the Milwaukee Art Museum today announced it has made an offer to acquire the O’Donnell Property and its multi-level parking garage from Milwaukee County.

Under the terms of the proposal, the Museum will assume $28.8 million in liabilities in a non-cash transaction in which the Museum will take ownership of the O’Donnell Property. The deal also includes a transfer in ownership of the Kahler Building (inclusive of the new East Addition) and the space within the Saarinen Building, currently occupied by the Museum, to the Museum. The Milwaukee Art Museum will assume full responsibility for the county’s current 84-year obligation for capital maintenance and repair for those facilities, valued in today’s dollars at $28.8 million of county-taxpayer obligations.

“We think this proposal is good for county taxpayers and good for the community,” said Dan Keegan, Milwaukee Art Museum Director. “The proposal relieves county taxpayers of a long-term commitment, provides permanence and stability for the Museum, and ensures that future generations will have public access to the lakefront for years to come.”

In addition, the Museum will assume the cost burden for structural repairs and maintenance needed to maintain the O’Donnell Property. The Museum has plans to transform the garage into a state-of-the-art parking facility after making all deferred repairs, including replacing a rubber membrane on the roof of the parking garage and plaza that has been leaking. Costs of other deferred maintenance are estimated at an additional $5.4 million. The Museum will also install the latest automated prepay booths and provide electronic signs, more lights and 24-hour security.

Aesthetic improvements will be made to the public park area and will be determined once designs for other lakefront projects are finalized, including the Lakefront Gateway, Couture and footbridge over Michigan Avenue connecting Couture and O’Donnell.

“This partnership preserves public ownership of the land for future generations, ensures continued public access and exercise of free speech while maximizing the economic value to the taxpayer today,” said Theodore A. Lipscomb, Sr., Milwaukee County Board Chairman.

The O’Donnell Property includes an upper plaza with two pavilions and two separate open spaces at the east end of Wisconsin Ave. The three-story Miller Brewing Pavilion is home to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and Coast Restaurant operated by the Zilli Hospitality Group. Zilli also has office space in the Promontory Pavilion. The Museum will honor those existing leases as part of the transaction.

The Museum will create a capital reserve fund with revenue generated from the O’Donnell parking facility that is expected to cover the costs of maintaining and repairing all structures of what will now be a museum campus of buildings including the garage.

The newly renovated Milwaukee Art Museum is expected to attract more visitors, creating a demand for more parking. The O’Donnell garage is the main place for Museum patrons to park, with the footbridge over N. Lincoln Memorial Drive connecting the two buildings.

“We’re grateful to the Art Museum for working with us to arrive at what we all agree is now both a good deal for a great institution and a good deal for County taxpayers,” said Chris Abele, Milwaukee County Executive. “As each institution reviews this deal we are confident they will do so with an eye towards sustainability for all.”

The terms of the proposal will go before the Milwaukee County Finance Committee on Thursday, March 10 and before the County Board for a vote on Thursday, March 17.

About the Milwaukee Art Museum

Home to a rich collection of over 30,000 works of art, the Milwaukee Art Museum is located on the shores of Lake Michigan. Its campus includes the Santiago Calatrava–designed Quadracci Pavilion, annually showcasing three feature exhibitions, and the Eero Saarinen–designed Milwaukee County War Memorial Center and David Kahler‒designed addition. The Museum recently reopened its Collection Galleries, debuting nearly 2,500 world-class works of art within dramatically transformed galleries and a new lakefront addition.

Media Contact: Mary Roberts, (414) 839-4175

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