Pabst City Project Falls Through

Two years and two days ago, I blogged about a massive urban redevelopment project planned for the former brewery of Pabst Blue Ribbon in Milwaukee, Wisconsin called Pabst City. The project was mind-boggling in scale: it was to cost over $300 million to convert seven blocks of the brewery’s historic structures into stores, apartments, and office space.

Inspired by an invitation to visit Milwaukee, I decided to see how the project was progressing. I was surprised to find that it has been blocked after the city voted down the necessary Tax Increment Financing package, citing a number of concerns about historic preservation and the impact of the development on existing businesses.

The example seems to me evidence of just how intensely political urban development can be – a variable it seems like the developer neglected to properly consider. The grandiose project ultimately sounds like it would have made poor urbanism. Whether it succeeded or failed, projects based on what Jane Jacobs refers to as “cataclysmic money” are destined to lack the fine-grained variety of true urbanism, and feel and function much like a conventional suburban shopping mall.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published in September a 2-part series about the project – “Trouble brewed early for PabstCity” and “Aggressive campaign crushed PabstCity

Author: Rob Goodspeed


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