By Karen Stokes
Plans for the proposed Wisconsin Center expansion were unveiled during a board meeting this past Friday. The expansion will double the square footage of the convention center and generate $12.6 billion in spending over a 30-year period.
“Revealing our vision for the Wisconsin Center expansion with the board and to our community represents a major step forward,” said Marty Brooks, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Center District (WCD). “It is essential that this design seamlessly integrates into our city’s landscape and is a place people are proud to show off. We want this space to build inclusivity, experiences, memories and momentum and drive economic impact for our great city.”
In order to remain competitive with other cities for more frequent and bigger convention business, the new facility must:
• Increase the exposition hall square footage by 112,000 sq. ft., totaling 300,000 contiguous sq. ft. plus integrate six loading docks to support the added square footage;
• Offer a ballroom with a minimum of 30,000 sq. ft. and a minimum seating capacity of 2,000;
• Add no fewer than 24 new meeting rooms; and
• Include no fewer than 400 parking spaces.
Other design elements include modernizing the existing facility’s interior, creating a cohesive feeling between the current and new facility; building new employee locker rooms, break, training and briefing rooms; adding gender-neutral bathrooms, quiet rooms and nursing mother’s rooms; and creating outdoor patio spaces. The new facility will also include a centralized Visit Milwaukee Visitor Center.
The expansion should attract more than 100,000 new out-of-state visitors to Milwaukee annually.
With the downtown area in the midst of a construction boom there is the question of diversity and how and if these projects will benefit the minority communities.
“With the goal for minority hiring I think the potential is there for it to be of benefit to the African American community,” said Ald. Milele Coggs. “The opportunity is definitely there it just has to be maximized.
“In my conversation of other members of Wisconsin Center District (WCD) and with the CEO and council members who sit on this board it is looking for even more ways to ensure that our community benefits from this development and many others in the downtown area and in particular the neighborhoods that are nearest and that those people who have lived and invested in those neighborhoods are not misplaced by the growth of downtown,” explained Coggs.
The expansion was designed by Milwaukee’s Eppstein Uhen Architects and Atlanta-based TVSdesign.
The board will vote on the expansion project at a meeting on Thursday, April 2. If approved, the target for groundbreaking is Spring 2021.