March 01. 2012 2:00AM - Last modified: March 15. 2012 1:00PM

Abele targets Park East for development


Milwaukee Co. Exec Chris Abele declared "we will knock down mountains" to land a development in the area left vacant by the demolition of the Park East Freeway in 2003.
Delivering his State of the County address at UW-Milwaukee on Monday, Abele said a new advisory group would be comprised of local developers, commercial real estate professionals, business leaders, and county and city officials.
The county owns the 16-acre strip, and a city-county effort to land Kohl's Corp. headquarters for the property was recently rejected by the company. Abele said the county would be willing to work with a variety of partners to attract jobs to the area.
"If the WEDC, the M7, or MMAC has a big opportunity, I will tell you right now that the county will be an enthusiastic partner," Abele said. "For a big opportunity like Kohl's, we will knock down mountains."
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett welcomed Abele's collaborative approach. Barrett noted that the Park East area is tricky because the county owns the land, but a lot of the tools for development are held by the city.
"We have to be singing from the same hymnal," Barrett told reporters.
Abele said he is focused on economic development, saying the county is no longer "a bit player on that front."
Abele stressed communication with the city, state agencies and local organizations.
"We want to be a persistent presence at every chamber of commerce, every business association and every municipality," Abele said. "We want to be connected and aligned with the schools, universities and nonprofits who train and develop the work force and the employers who need it to grow."
Abele touts his budget for not raising property taxes and after the speech, Abele told reporters he would take a similar approach to the budget next year, albeit with the experiences of the first budget in mind. Abele said he planned to take the same course on taxes.
"Property taxes, they're high enough," he said.
Read Abele's speech: