Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Brewski Laverne and Shirley style: PabstCity funding clears key hurdle. Meanwhile Iron City web site still drunk on saving city.

JS Online: PabstCity funding clears key hurdle The proposed PabstCity entertainment and retail development should get $41 million in city financial assistance, based on a recommendation Tuesday by a Milwaukee Common Council committee.

Perhaps Iron City could be saved if we turned the brewery into loft apartments and did a "metro-pole" disco downstairs.

Well, we tried that with the Duke Brewery and have the Brew House artists' lofts on the South Side. That's the building complex near the South Side Hospital and the one with the big clock. And, it isn't so "upscale." But, it happened without the $41-million in public money.

What's up with Iron City anyway? Did the water bill issue get resolved?

The iron-clad irony of the I.C. Brewery saga was the opening, about a year ago, of the Save Our City web site, with its distinctive oval label. As is the case with most beers -- the head was mostly foam. The chuckle of a company doing a web site to save the city while the company was going under and beholden to the grip of the Water And Sewer Authority was intoxicating.

Don't drink and drive nor blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

PabstCity funding clears key hurdle

Panel backs $41 million in aid; council to vote today

Posted: July 5, 2005

The proposed PabstCity entertainment and retail development should get $41 million in city financial assistance, based on a recommendation Tuesday by a Milwaukee Common Council committee.

PabstCity Vote Quotable

There’s a bunch of pigeons living at the Pabst brewery. And they’re not paying taxes.

- Richard “Rocky” Marcoux,
City development commissioner

We're not making the pie bigger. We’re splitting up the pie.

- Craig Peterson,

Spokesman for restaurants and taverns opposed to the city funding for PabstCity

Recent Coverage"
7/3/05: PabstCity financing vote too close to call
7/1/05: Marcus to operate PabstCity theater
6/26/05: Officials ponder future of PabstCity finances
6/21/05: Former church would be spared from demolition
6/18/05: A downtown boost — or threat?
6/15/05: Number of screens reduced at planned PabstCity cinema
6/4/05: Experts try to predict the potential of PabstCity
6/2/05: PabstCity's glass half empty?
5/29/05: PabstCity casino in the cards?
5/17/05: Compromise proposed for PabstCity
5/6/05: Rivals rip PabstCity finance plan
5/4/05: Agency to review PabstCity financing
4/7/05: Historical panel wants Pabst buildings preserved
4/3/05: Gould - PabstCity plan is good, could be better
1/26/05: Developers scale back plans for PabstCity complex

The full council will consider the proposal today at a 9 a.m. meeting at City Hall. The impending council vote appears too close to call, and the council's 15 aldermen could ignore the recommendation from the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee.

In the 3-2 committee vote, aldermen Ashanti Hamilton, Robert Bauman and Willie Wade favored the city subsidy, while aldermen Michael Murphy and Mike D'Amato opposed it.

Council approval would provide $41 million in city funds for the $317 million development, which would convert downtown Milwaukee's former Pabst brewery into a theater, restaurants, night clubs, shops, housing and offices.

The money, along with $38 million in interest, would be repaid to the city by PabstCity's property taxes.

After the amount is paid back, an estimated $2.7 million of annual property tax revenue would flow to the city, schools and other local governments - one of PabstCity's main selling points for Mayor Tom Barrett and other supporters.

Backers say the development would preserve some of the dilapidated brewery's historic buildings, while creating 1,000 construction jobs and 1,100 jobs within PabstCity's businesses. The brewery has been largely vacant since 1996, and the development plan is the best shot at bringing new life to the 24-acre site, supporters say.

"There's a bunch of pigeons living at the Pabst brewery," said Richard "Rocky" Marcoux, the city development commissioner. "And they're not paying taxes."

Marcoux and others told committee members that PabstCity, which would be developed by Wispark LLC, a subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy Corp., and Cleveland-based Ferchill Group, would help downtown compete with suburban shopping and entertainment destinations such as Bayshore Towne Center and Mayfair Mall.

Wispark executives also said PabstCity would be a regional entertainment and retail destination, helping draw more customers for other downtown restaurants and clubs.
'Splitting up the pie'

Opponents said city taxpayers should not subsidize a development that will draw an estimated 50% to 70% of its sales from existing Milwaukee-area restaurants and other businesses.

"We're not making the pie bigger. We're splitting up the pie," said Craig Peterson, a spokesman for restaurants and taverns against the city funding for PabstCity.

The group questioned the extent of the development's benefits, with some arguing that most of the jobs being created would pay relatively low service-industry wages.

They also questioned the long-term viability of PabstCity, which would take an estimated 24 to 30 years to pay back the $79 million to the city.
Initial report critical

A report commissioned by the city comptroller's office initially provided ammunition for PabstCity's opponents on the viability issue.

The report, completed last month by Chicago-based C.H. Johnson Consulting Inc., concludes that PabstCity's location in downtown's northwest corner and its tenant mix "will hamper performance over the long term."

Over time, the estimated sales at PabstCity's restaurants, entertainment venues and shops would not be high enough to support a strong mix of tenants, the Johnson report says.

Since then, Wispark announced plans for a smaller theater, with 10 screens instead of 16 screens -following a suggestion by the Johnson report that the cinema be downsized. Wispark also said last week that the theater would be run by Marcus Corp., the Milwaukee area's largest cinema operator, replacing a small Pittsburgh firm as the prospective operator.

Meanwhile, the authors of the C.H. Johnson report told committee members that additional information from Wispark about PabstCity's likely tenants improved their view of the project's long-term viability.

The development's proposed anchor tenants include the cinema, a House of Blues restaurant and rock music venue, and a GameWorks restaurant and entertainment center.
Demolition supported

The committee's vote on the subsidy for PabstCity came after six hours of testimony and debate on the controversial development.

Earlier in the meeting, the committee also recommended approving a proposal that would allow PabstCity's developers to demolish several former brewery buildings. PabstCity would be a mix of both renovated buildings and new construction.
Preservationists concerned

Preservationists told the committee that Wispark and Ferchill Group were not doing enough to preserve additional brewery buildings. Structures targeted for demolition include the former malt house and fermenting facilities.

Wispark executives, however, said the buildings to be demolished would be too expensive to restore, and that roughly half the brewery's existing space would be preserved. The buildings to be preserved include the former keg house, brew house and bottling house, as well as the former office building, gift shop and Blue Ribbon Hall, 901-917 W. Juneau Ave.

The same aldermen who supported the demolition proposal also supported city financial assistance for PabstCity.