Another item on the shrinking to-do list for the Bucks and their new arena was marked off today, as Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele agreed to sell the vacant Park East land to the team for $1, breaking down to about ten cents per acre.
The sale of the land was expected to go through without much drama, as Abele was allowed by a legislative provision to sell the land without full approval from the county board. As for the sale, it seems like a astoundingly cheap price until you consider the work that is bound to follow, which we've previously laid out.
"The Bucks have proposed purchasing the land for $1, which sounds cheap until you realize the millions required to make the property ready for construction. Related: it's no coincidence that the land has been sitting empty for over 15 years. Removing an underground sewer has been estimated to cost $6 million, while removal of underground footings leftover from the previous highway spur is expected to cost an additional $3 million. For what it's worth, developer Blair Williams offered (you guessed it) $1 for a portion of the land last October as well, though he now supports the Bucks' project given its broader impact."
The land purchase paves the way for the construction of a new arena immediately south of the property starting this fall, though the County hopes the arena will be just the beginning of development in the long-dormant area. Aside from the $500 million arena project, the Bucks have proposed a further $400 million in privately funded ancillary development over the next decade, including a new practice facility, retail and office space, a potential parking garage, and housing developments. Sean Ryan of the Milwaukee Business Journal has an extensive look at the current plans for the land, including its likely starting point this fall:
Under the land deal with Milwaukee County, the Bucks ownership secured the right to buy 9.8 acres, block-by-block, over an up to nine-year period. The development would be phased in over time, starting on the western edge of the corridor with a new Bucks practice facility facing Sixth Street.
The first land sale will take place "as soon as possible," said Jim Tarantino, county economic development director. That deal would include the westernmost portions where the Bucks would build their practice facility and also the parking garage that the city of Milwaukee would help finance.
So where do we go from here? There is one more substantive task that lies between now and groundbreaking in the fall, that being the Milwaukee Common Council approving of the city's portion of the deal. That portion totals $47 million-- $35 million for a new parking structure and the remaining $12 million as a tax incremental financing district for the area surrounding the arena. The Common Council met in August and is expected to vote on the matter on September 22.
Bucks President Peter Feign released the following statement on today's news.
"We're grateful for the leadership of County Executive Chris Abele and his team to seize this opportunity to revitalize the heart of downtown Milwaukee. As we forged this partnership, county and city officials have been incredibly dedicated to ensuring this development will benefit the entire community.
"The Park East land is a vital piece to our owners' vision that goes beyond a new arena by attracting hundreds of millions more in private investment to our community. This sale represents the next step in a major economic development that will change the landscape of Milwaukee County. On this ground, we envision a vibrant community space featuring housing, office, commercial and retail opportunities, that will link the neighboring communities together with a world-class sports and entertainment destination.
"Starting with our practice facility, we can't wait to begin work and start creating jobs, attracting further investment and becoming a great partner in the revitalization of Milwaukee."