For the second time within three years, a major downtown Milwaukee development is focusing on a wall.
In August 2019, the east wall of the former Warner Grand Theatre was slowly moved about 35 feet to extend the building for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's new performance center.
This week, the Wisconsin Center convention facility's north wall is being removed to accommodate the expansion of the facility towards West Kilbourn Avenue.
The precast concrete exterior wall was designed and built in 1998 with the expectation that it would eventually be removed for the convention center's expansion.
Work on that long-delayed phase started in late summer.
Once completed in early 2024, the Wisconsin Center will offer 300,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit hall space — up from 188,000 square feet.
The $420 million expansion will double Wisconsin Center's space — allowing it to host two major events at the same time.
The project will include a second ballroom with an outdoor terrace, and add meeting rooms, indoor parking and loading docks.
The project's debt will be paid off over 40 years by countywide hotel, restaurant and car rental taxes levied by the Wisconsin Center District, a state-created public agency which operates the convention facility, UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and Miller High Life Theatre.
Meanwhile, the district could be on the hook for paying more money to the city to obtain air rights relating to the expansion project.
Those air space leases, for portions of the convention center that hang over public sidewalks, as well as two skywalks over West Wells Street and North Phillips Avenue, need approval from the Common Council.
The Department of City Development is recommending annual rent payments totaling $23,300, said David Misky, Redevelopment Authority assistant executive director, at a Wednesday meeting of the council's Public Works Committee.
However, the district wants to pay less, Misky said, without elaborating.
That led Ald. Robert Bauman, who chairs the committee, to delay acting on the air space leases — saying the items deserve more time and attention from committee members.
"I want to know why they are not paying a lot more," said Bauman, whose district includes downtown and who's also a district board member.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee's Wisconsin Center expansion continues with wall removal