Northwestern Mutual offers to buy O'Donnell Park

By Dwayne Butler - Freeman Staff

July 10, 2014

MILWAUKEE — Northwestern Mutual has proposed purchasing the O'Donnell 
Park parking structure on Milwaukee County's lakefront.

Under the proposal, Northwestern Mutual would pay $14 million, which is 
the appraised value of the parking structure, and would receive a $1.3 
million credit for needed maintenance on the structure. After the 
purchase, the county could retire $7 million of park's debt and have 
more than $5 million left to improve parks across the county.

“We have had conceptual discussions with Milwaukee County for some time 
on this idea,” said Sandy Botcher, head of Northwestern Mutual’s 
downtown campus development project. “We’ve developed a proposal that 
relieves the county of some of its financial burden, upgrades the 
parking structure, and enhances the high-quality open space for the 
entire community to enjoy.”

Northwestern Mutual has agreed to improve the aging parking structure 
and intends to add more green spaces, modernize the parking equipment 
and add zipcars and bike share options in the future.

“There are so many positive developments coming to life along the 
downtown lakefront, and we believe O’Donnell Park should be part of 
that," Botcher said.

Northwestern Mutual is in the midst of a $450 million project to build 
a new downtown high-rise office building across the street from 
O'Donnell Park. The financial and insurance company plans to keep the 
parking garage open to the public seven days a week and keep O'Donnell 
Park as a public park.

"Not only will this sale allow us to continue to improve our beautiful 
parks, it’s also a great partnership with a company that has made a 
strong commitment to our community,” Milwaukee County Executive Chris 
Abele said in a statement.

Abele's office said the proposed sale also would return the parking 
garage to the public tax rolls, resulting in more revenue for the 
county, the city of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools and Milwaukee 
Area Technical College.

In a release, Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic 
said the proposal has been referred to the Parks and Economic 
Development committees.

The County Board is expected to hold hearings on the plan this month.