A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Something I Don't Get

There is a move afoot in Milwaukee to move the Potawatomi casino from its current location-- a few miles from downtown in a very industrial/debilitated area-- to the downtown area. I have no problem with this. By all means, bring a casino downtown and make downtown someplace people want to actually go to do something other than work. Works for me.

What I don't get is why there is such a confusion over what to do about the current casino in the Menomonee River Valley, several miles from downtown. The general consensus seems to be that it would have to be closed. Why? The building and infastructure are there. Why close it? Leave it where it is, and make that casino the "cheap" casino and the bingo hall. Instead of tons of $1 and $5 slots, table games that start at $5 a hand (if you're lucky), make that casino the place the non-highrollers go to.

Slots and video poker ranging from a nickel to a quarter. Maybe a few dollar ones. Table games with $2 or $3 minimums. Keep the bingo hall and the restaurants and the live-act theater and build a whole new casino downtown that features the higher end minimums ($5 or even $10) on table games, and starts with $.25 slots and goes up to the $5 versions. Build a new upscale restaurant there (none of the ones at the current casino are really upscale).

Personally, I rarely play table games at Potawatomi because the minimums are higher than I like. If they were lower, I'd likely go more often. The old casino won't make the revenue it used to, but it should still turn a profit, and you don't have to abandon a $135 million dollar complex to disuse and decay. The greater Milwaukee area is big enough to support two casinos, as long as they target different clientele.

Am I missing something?
Here's what I don't get, Nick.

As someone who lives near downtown Milwaukee, works downtown, and spends money, time, and efforts, both occupational and private, in improving the downtown, why should Milwaukee be obligated to respond to the desires of people, who have already demonstrated their own preferences against urban life altogether? It's like Metallica writing a ballad about butterflies and ponies because they don't sell any albums to the preteen girls.

I think the current casino is just fine where it is. I view the idea of putting the casino in the Pabst development to be a last gasp effort to funnel money into an overwrought plan. I am conversant enough with the parameters of development to know that the Pabst buildings could be renovated and converted quite ably; the master plan as it stands seems to look to be maximizing up front profits at the long term expense of the city in general. But that's the danger of Carpetbagger Developers; They don't have to live with the long term problems that result from their short term decisions.

The reality is that putting a casino downtown would have little positive effect on the city itself; this type of use is a destination use, while it might meet the minimum interpretation of 'making downtown someplace people actually want to go...", in general terms it is a suburban style use. Meaning people drive there, are interred within the building for whatever period of time, then get into the cars and go home. Fine and dandy of itself, but the essence of the urban environment is the synergy created by the multivarious uses interacting with each other.

I am aware that there are plenty of people to whom an urban lifestyle does not hold attraction; that'snot the issue. But the idea that a city needs to appeal to these exact folks is a misguided holdover from the fifties and sixties. This attitude is the one that resulted in wholesale destruction of viable communities in cities across the nation to provide 'urban renewal' projects or freeway spurs.

A city thrives when it concentrates on the aspects that constitute an urban environment: diversity, pedestrian oriented activity, 24 hour activities. obliterating wide swaths of the city to Build mega structures, parking lots, and freeways doesn't work.

I know it comes as news to many people whose daily interaction with Milwaukee is limited to the Crime Scene Of The Day on TMJ4, but the city already provides incentive for thousands of people to come downtown at all times of year, not only for work, but to shop, play, dine and live here.

The city may not appeal to everyone and there's no need for it to. You visit us Nick, and I will be able to show you the vitality and energy of The Breadbasket of The Midwest.

Ultimately, I agree with you that ther's no need to mothball the existing structure. There's no need to move it at all. I'm not enough of an expert to know if the metro area is, indeed large enought o support two casinos, but If we need a cheap casino, let's build it in Racine. That way it can pull in the Folks from Illinois.
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