Feasibility study suggests combining Mitchell Park Domes, Milwaukee Public Museum

MILWAUKEE -- A new study recommended demolishing the Mitchell Park Domes and rebuilding and combining them with a new Milwaukee Public Museum.

The new facility would cost $300 million.

Researchers found it wouldn't be cost effective to properly renovate the Mitchell Park Domes.

At this point, it's just a recommendation.

"We do believe that a joint facility could be developed and could be done so in a way that is maybe more efficient than the current standalone two institutions are right now," said Mike Divine with Gallagher Museum Services.

In fall 2018, Milwaukee County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic presented the bold proposal to the county's Finance and Audit Committee. A study to explore the idea passed unanimously. The feasibility study was done in an effort to determine whether the project would be do-able.

Milwaukee County officials have said they're opposed to tearing down the Mitchell Park Domes. A supervisor said the official position of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors is to repair and rehabilitate the Domes.

Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez released this statement:

"Recent media reports about the Mitchell Park Domes have generated renewed interest in the future of those structures and the horticultural conservatory they house.

Last year, Milwaukee County established a task force to study the idea of locating the Milwaukee Public Museum at Mitchell Park. This task force commissioned a study to look into that idea, and the firm that conducted the study recommended demolishing the Domes and building a new facility to house both the Milwaukee Public Museum and the horticultural conservatory. Although I disagree with the study's conclusion that the cost of restoring the Domes outweighs the benefits, I am disappointed that the study did not adequately address the possibilities of combining the museum with the existing Domes structures.

To be clear: It is not Milwaukee County's policy to demolish the Domes, nor is that my position. My position is to restore and repair the Domes, and do what is necessary to keep the Domes operational for the foreseeable future. I also want to clarify that the Milwaukee Public Museum task force that commissioned the study released this week is a different body than the Domes Task Force, which I am a member of. The Domes Task Force is currently developing a long-term plan for the repair and restoration of the Domes, and intends to release that plan by September."

Supervisor Ortiz-Velez said: The Milwaukee County Task Force on the Mitchell Park Conservatory Domes will host a joint meeting with the Milwaukee Public Museum Task Force on April 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the Gordon Park Pavilion in Milwaukee.

One of the ideas to help pay for repairs is cashing in on historic tax credits, but there are criteria that need to be met in order for that to happen.

After receiving input from more than 2,000 people via an online survey, the task force narrowed down the ideas to two possible options.

The first option involves targeted investments in things like new construction, upgrades and food service.

The second option involves making the Domes a destination attraction. That would include things like a canopy walk, live animals, an aquarium and a restaurant, to name a view things.

In January of 2016, the Arid Dome was closed after a piece of concrete fell from it. In February, all three Domes were closed due to safety concerns. All three reopened by late October, after mesh netting was put in place to protect guests.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Public Museum officials in 2018 released concepts of what a new museum could look like.

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