UWM County Grounds development plan wins council approval

Published on: 5/5/2010

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's development plan for a portion of the Milwaukee County Grounds, east of Highway 45 and north of W. Watertown Plank Road, was approved Tuesday night by the Wauwatosa Common Council on a 13-2 vote.

The council also voted 15-0 to approve zoning for the site, where UWM plans to develop a science research facility, technology-based business park and other buildings, including housing developed within the historic Eschweiler buildings. The development will be called Innovation Park.

A portion of the land will be set aside as a wildlife habitat, including migration grounds for monarch butterflies.

The development plan that was approved is a preliminary proposal. UWM will return for additional city approvals on more detailed portions of the overall plan as it develops various portions of the property.

The County Board a year ago approved an agreement to sell the 89-acre parcel for $13.55 million. The buyer will be UWM Innovation Park LLC, an affiliate of the university's real estate foundation. It has until September to close on the purchase.

University officials say they still plan to develop the site despite the loss of funding they had expected to receive for the project from retired business executive Michael Cudahy. They've said they're close to replacing the funds the university had expected to obtain from Cudahy.

Supporters of the development say the planned Wauwatosa campus could provide UWM with world-class research facilities. That would improve the university's ability to obtain large research grants, such as those provided by the National Institutes of Health, while enabling its researchers to collaborate with scientists at the nearby Medical College of Wisconsin.

Opponents say building engineering facilities a 30-minute drive away from UWM's main campus on the east side would strain the ability of faculty to develop research partnerships with their colleagues in related fields.

You can read a lot more about those opposing points in a story I wrote in October.