Tuesday, October 13, 2009

RRF Offers to Purchase "Wheelhouse" Property

Funding Sought to Turn Melanec's Wheelhouse Site into Riverfront Park
by By Don Behm of the Journal Sentinel
The final mystery to be played out at the former Melanec's Wheelhouse restaurant and dinner theater on the Milwaukee River: Who will contribute to its demolition and transformation to a public park?
The River Revitalization Foundation has offered to buy the boat-shaped building and 2.8 acres - with 650 feet of frontage on the west bank of the river - for $1.4 million, foundation Executive Director Kimberly Gleffe said. The restaurant closed, and stopped hosting murder mysteries and other dinner-theater performances, in late 2005.
If the Milwaukee-based land trust can raise the money and close the deal by December, it intends to demolish the restaurant and remove two blacktop parking lots, Gleffe said.
A park there would provide public access to the west shore of the river north of downtown for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, wildlife watching, exploring and relaxing, Gleffe said.
The foundation is seeking a state stewardship fund grant that would pay up to 50% of the property's appraised value.
On Monday, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District's commission will act on a proposal to buy a conservation easement to the property at an estimated cost of $400,000. The easement would become a permanent deed restriction, prohibiting residential or commercial development.
District funds to pay for the easement would come from its Greenseams flood-management program, said Steve Jacquart, the district's intergovernmental coordinator. The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission had targeted the property for protection in an environmental corridor study - a greenway connection plan - done for MMSD.
The land trust is seeking private donations to cover remaining costs of the purchase, said Christopher Jaekels, a Milwaukee attorney and chairman of the River Revitalization Foundation's board of directors. John Chowanec of Milwaukee is the current owner of the property at 2178 N. Riverboat Road.
The unnamed park would be linked to Caesar's and Riverside parks, the Urban Ecology Center and proposed Rotary Centennial Arboretum - all on the river's east shore - by an existing pedestrian bridge and the East Bank and Oak Leaf recreational trails, Gleffe said. The pedestrian bridge is located at the site of a former dam on the river.
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The mission of the River Revitalization Foundation is to establish a parkway for public access, walkways, recreation and education, bordering the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers; to use the rivers to revitalize surrounding neighborhoods; and to improve water quality.

The River Revitalization Foundation is a certified non-profit 501(c)(3) conservation organization

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