As demolition of the Bradley Center begins, Bucks ponder new uses for the site

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The BMO Harris Bradley Center is now in the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks and demolition — starting with the interior — will start in the weeks ahead.
The transfer of control of the now-closed arena took place Sept. 1 and was a key part of the agreement creating Fiserv Forum, their new $524 million arena. Fiserv Forum is owned by the Wisconsin Center District and leased to the Bucks for 30 years. The Bucks promised several community groups and the Milwaukee Public Schools access to items such as the electronics inside the Bradley Center. Later this month, demolition of the building will begin from the inside with the removal of those items. As the dismantling begins, the Bucks and community leaders are beginning to consider what will go in the huge space that will open between North Vel Phillips Avenue and North Sixth Street. and between West State Street and West Highland Avenue.
The Bucks want to create a “living room” for the city of Milwaukee, anchored by the new arena, senior vice president Alex Lasry said Wednesday at a Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon discussion about the Bradley Center site. The Bradley Center is a “huge connector” between Fiserv Forum and the surrounding development and the Wisconsin Center convention hall, Lasry said. Lasry said the Bucks have not determined the new use for the Bradley Center site and promised that the team would listen to community input before acting. “This is taking ideas from other cities and from around the world,” he said.
Gary Witt, CEO of the Pabst Theater Group, said it was imperative that the Bucks consider apartments, coffee shops and offices for the site.”There’s not a lot happening in the daytime” at the site, Witt said. “This is an important space.” Lasry agreed that “nighttime hospitality could be a little redundant.” “We want to be patient,” he said. “Doing the wrong thing there is something that we really can’t go back on.”
Panelists noted that the walkability of downtown Milwaukee was a big part of the recent pitch to the Democratic National Committee to bring the 2020 convention to the city. Milwaukee is a finalist for the convention.
Milwaukee can create a “pedestrian haven,” said Lasry, who is leading the push for the convention. “You kind of forget how close everything is,” he said. “It’s not a long walk to get anywhere.” “It’s about the city and the greater downtown area,” said Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown, who said preliminary research showed a need for “really high-density, mixed-use development.” Werick and other panel members said expanding the Wisconsin Center convention space was an important consideration, so Milwaukee can compete with other cities. Consultants have recommended that the Wisconsin Center’s main exhibit space, ballroom and smaller meeting rooms, which now total 265,800 square feet, be expanded to 422,800 to 437,800 square feet. In June, a report said the cost of the expansion would range from $247 million to $277 million. No financing plan for the expansion has been set.
The Bucks have made a considerable effort not to compete with other businesses as they put together the development around the arena, Lasry said. “We’re trying to grow the pot,” he said. “We’re trying to expand the pie and grow business for everyone.”
The old BMO Harris Bradley Center site could have apartments other new uses. Or, that site could become a dog park — if Claude Krawczyk and hundreds of other downtown residents have their way.

James B. Nelson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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