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Vince Vitrano: Not For Broadcast



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I hardly suggest we turn Bradford Beach into high rise condos, but we need to develop our lakefront.

One of the things I'm most proud of in Milwaukee is our fantastic lakefront. It separates us from other like sized cities. The Polisis don't have a giant lake. Minneapolis doesn't have it. Indianapolis doesn't have it.  

Whenever we have people in from out of town, we make the Altera coffee shop on the lake a mandatory stop. It's a place to show off beautiful Lake Michigan, and an outstanding restoration of an historic building. It's popularity ought to show that people are starved for something to do down there besides roller blade and watch fireworks once a year.  The job they did in remaking that old pump house should be a model for other projects like it.

It should be, but it wasn't.

We just witnessed the old Coast Guard boat house meeting the wrecking ball. How did we not find a way to turn that into a sandwich shop with a big old deck on it than ran the length of the water there? How about an ice cream shop... like Leon's II or Gilles, Kopps?

For that matter, how about some nice shops or something? A couple more restaurants. Maybe an open air amphitheater with a bar... or not a bar... whatever. Something! Anything to do!

We charge outrageous rent or lease prices. The County gets a big break. It brings in free money from the fees, and taxes generated from the sale of food, products and services.  Private investors improve the properties and make the lake front a nicer place to be. On top of it, there's value added in the attractions.

Critics will usually offer this consistent, primary reason for objecting to plans like this. Developing these "public" spaces limits public access.

Couldn't disagree more, and an experience I had a few weeks ago confirmed that. Locating attractions on the lakefront, or in parks enhances public access. For example, if you turned some of those old park pavillions into coffee shops like the lakefront Altera, can you imagine how many more people would come there and use the space? When I lived in Bay View I went in the beautiful building at South Shore about 4 times a year... always to vote. Would have gone every day if they sold me a 3 dollar cup of coffee.

Right now, many of these are boarded up old buildings, or at best, a dirty bathroom to be used only when absolutely necessary. Lease them out... fix them up... open the doors and invite people in.

Critics will often counter, then, that you limit access to paying customers. You shouldn't have to pay to enjoy the parks or lakefront. Okay, fine. Write it in the legislation, then. People are free to order a cup of water and sit there all afternoon if they like. Fine.

Furthermore, we already have paying attractions on the lakefront and in parks. We went to the Mitchell Park Domes a while back, and I know we paid at least 5 bucks a head to get in. The Zoo is county owned... you can't even park there for free.

What about the art museum? Doesn't that limit public access to the lakefront. I don't think that's free?

I know the new Pier Wisconsin/Discovery world joint isn't free. We just went last month. Nice place, enjoyed it. Payed 5 bucks to park, and 18 dollars each for my wife and me to visit. Fortunately the kids were free. It was over 40 bucks for that hour and a half visit!

You want to talk about limiting public access? It's a lot less expensive for a family to head on down to the lakefront and buy a few ice cream cones. You could feed the family at a sandwich shop for less than 20 bucks. That's for more affordable than attending the lakefront museums.

How come when it's a museum it's okay to limit public access, but when it's something for more affordable for the masses to enjoy, it's "destroying" or "selling out" our parks?

I'm not saying we shouldn't have the museums. I'm saying, they're shining examples of how we're already developing the lakefront, and that we ought to continue.

Lets get some ideas people together and push some ideas through... instead of the usual blue ribbon commissions and study groups that spend years investigating what should happen to an historic building like that boat house that eventually becomes unsalvageable.



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