FPC Live’s proposed $50 million concert complex for downtown Milwaukee’s Deer District was approved Tuesday by the city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee.
It was the second state hurdle the project cleared, despite strong opposition from existing Milwaukee concert hall operators and other community groups.
FPC Livea Madison-based subsidiary Frank productions, in partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks, plans to build two concert halls — one with a capacity of 4,000 and the other with a capacity of 800 — on the northeast portion of the former Bradley Center site, south of the Fiserv Forum. If approved, tThe project would break ground this fall for completion in early 2024.
While a concert hall is already a permitted use under the area’s zoning requirements, the project requires changes to zoning standards for the former Bradley Center site under the 2016 Arena Master Plan zoning agreement. The developers also have a zoning change from a generally planned one Proposed development to a detailed planned development for the project. The changes won a 3-2 recommendation from the City Planning Commission last month and a 5-0 recommendation from ZND Tuesday. The members of the committee are: Ald. Michael Murphy, Ald. Robert Baumann, Ald. Jose Perez, Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic and Ald. Russel Stamper.
In response to design concerns raised at the planning commission meeting, the developers revised the project by moving the building 37 feet to the east and adding glazing material to the east facade.
ZND’s public hearing, similar to that of the planning commission, focused on competition concerns and fears that FPC Live could cannibalize the city’s existing independent music venues. Frank Productions is majority owned by Los Angeles living nation, one of the world’s largest live entertainment companies. An opposition group called Save MKE’s Music Scene LLC has said that Live Nation will put independent Milwaukee concert venue operators out of business by restricting Live Nation touring acts to playing only in Live Nation-controlled venues.
Supporters of the project say it will have a positive impact on the economy, the workforce, the tourism industry and the downtown live music scene. Those in attendance at Tuesday’s hearing included Peter Rickman of the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Union and Dan Bukiewicz, President of the Milwaukee Building & Construction Trades Council. These two organizations recently signed employment contracts with FPC Live for the construction and operation of the event complex. Other supporters included local restaurant owner Omar Shaikh; clifton phelps, Vice President of Business Development for JCP Construction in Milwaukee; Jeremy Fojut, co-founder of Newaukee; and a spokesman for the Madison Visitors Bureau.
After the public discussion, Bauman, the deputy chairman of the ZND, admitted that competition and antitrust issues are not the city’s business.
“My position remains, as we’ve said before, the whole issue of the economic implications of regulating competition is something we’re not doing and frankly shouldn’t be doing because we’re not good at it, we’re not experts at it, we don’t have the tools to come to an informed conclusion,” Bauman said.
He said the project checks all the boxes of what the committee would normally consider in a detailed planned development.
“It’s a permissive use under the general plan, it’s a $50 million investment with no subsidies, it will be a tax-paying entity going forward, it’s on undeveloped land that’s underutilized to say the least. You have agreed to a community service contract. … They agreed to follow the core resolution. They hired a minority contractor to be the main contributor to the construction,” Bauman said. “…To draw an informed conclusion to the point where you reject a development touching every single basis we normally rely on in approving developments would be to put politics ahead of what we do intended, and that means acting in the best interests of the city, the growth of its tax base, and the growth of its economy.”
The project now goes to the Joint Council for final review.