A Milwaukee architectural firm that was part of Fiserv Forum's design team will play a similar role on the Wisconsin Center's upcoming expansion.
Eppstein Uhen Architects is partnering with Atlanta-based TVSdesign on the $300 million project, it was announced Thursday at a board meeting of the Wisconsin Center District, which operates the downtown convention center.
TVSdesign and Eppstein Uhen were selected from among 14 design teams that responded to the district's request for proposals.
TVSdesign is a national leader in designing convention centers, with that area making up half of its business, said Mike Abrams, senior director at Denver-based CAA Icon, a consulting firm hired by the district to oversee the expansion.
TVSdesign has worked on over 80 such projects, including 14 in the past 10 years, Abrams told board members.
That list includes Las Vegas Convention Center; McCormick Place, in Chicago; Music City Center, in Nashville; Javits Center, in New York, and Cobo Hall, now known as TCF Center, in Detroit.
Eppstein Uhen's portfolio includes Miller Park, several projects at Maier Festival Park and Fiserv Forum.
TVSdesign and Eppstein Uhen expect to have some conceptual designs to show publicly by June, Abrams said after the meeting.
Those concepts should reflect a different approach from the current Wisconsin Center design, said Marty Brooks, district president and chief executive officer.
"We want the exterior to be reflective of the new Milwaukee," Brooks told board members.
That will mean better engagement with the street, said Rich Tennessen, Eppstein Uhen president.
The design also will likely draw inspiration from such nearby developments as Fiserv Forum's entertainment district and The Avenue mixed-use project that's replacing the former Grand Avenue mall, Tennessen told reporters.
"This piece is really an important connection to stitch the urban fabric together," he said.
Brooks told reporters that a "wish list" being submitted to the architects would include items ranging from somewhat fanciful — a water element to reflect the importance of Lake Michigan to Milwaukee — to the practical, such as having enough restrooms, including gender-neutral restrooms.
With the design team selected, the district in January will next hire a construction management team. Major construction is to begin by April 2021.
The 2019-21 state budget, which took effect in July, includes a "moral obligation pledge" for the expansion project's bonds.
That means state taxpayers would cover the debt if the district was unable to do so. That backing will help the district borrow money by selling bonds to investors.
The Wisconsin Center District finances its operations in part with taxes on Milwaukee County hotel rooms, restaurant tabs and car rentals.
A June 2018 report from Tampa, Florida-based Crossroads Consulting Services LLC and Kansas City-based architectural firm Populous recommended the Wisconsin Center's main exhibit space, ballroom and smaller meeting rooms, which now total 265,800 square feet, be expanded to 422,800 to 437,800 square feet.
The facility opened in two phases, in 1998 and 2000. The third phase would be on what are now convention center parking lots between West Wells Street and West Kilbourn Avenue.
That expansion would allow the Wisconsin Center to attract more conventions and trade shows, which would generate more spending by visitors, according to a new report from HVS Global Hospitality Services, based in Westbury, New York.
Annual direct spending of visitors drawn by the Wisconsin Center, now estimated at $105 million, would increase to $154 million by the expansion's 2023 completion, and to $193 million by 2025, the HVS report said.
Full-time jobs at hotels, restaurants and other businesses tied to that spending, now estimated at 800, would increase to 1,200 in 2023 and 1,500 in 2025, according to the report.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel