City Condemns Art Stop Bus Stop

April 1, 2018

By Irenke Elkhälter


Art Stopless Triangle after most of Art Stop removed. —Rendering Jef Raasch

Last week city of Milwaukee structural engineers issued a condemnation order for the rusting, wobbling public artwork and bus shelter known as Art Stop.

The controversial project was championed by county and city officials who represent the Bay View neighborhood, although the lead cheerleader has always been District 14 Ald. Tony Zielinski.

Completed in 2011 after numerous delays, the work was originally commissioned to function both as bus shelter and a monumental sculpture—sold by Zielinski as public art that would bring “thousands to Bay View to see it.”

The condemnation order stipulated that the structure be removed by May 31, 2018. The lead engineer’s report indicated that a recent inspection found that key iron structural supports are dangerously compromised. If any should fail, the report’s author warned, the structure would collapse, imperiling those waiting for the bus, crossing KK and Howell, or driving through the busy intersection. The report also noted the “inestimable damage caused by the assault to the senses the structure has long wreaked upon those whose misfortune caused them to not be able to avoid laying eyes on it.”

Road salt, Wisconsin winters, rainy humid summers, and shoddy materials contributed to the unusually rapid rate of deterioration of the iron structural supports as evidenced by rust, pitting, and crumbling margins. DPW said the department received a number of calls from concerned bus drivers, riders, and pedestrians, who expressed anxiety about the structural integrity and stability of the several-ton sections supported by the iron I-beams.

After Art Stop’s unveiling in 2011, residents and local art critics panned the structure (“Godforsaken,” “Insulting,” “An Abomination,” “Laugh-Out-Loud Grotesque,” “WTFPOS”) as much for its lack of aesthetic appeal as for the dearth of protection provided to bus riders who must sometimes wait 30 minutes, or longer, in rain, snow, and Arctic or tropical conditions.

One of Art Stop’s critics asked why the solar panel affixed to the vertical element was used to power the garish LED light display rather than for warming features, such as radiant hot water piped beneath the surface of the concrete benches.

Others objected to the $320,000 price tag. Some remonstrated about the raiding of a bequest made to the Department of Public Works by a former DPW employee. Zielinski pushed hard to procure the bequest, which he said was justified since the donor had lived his entire life (in a modest home) in the western section of the district.

Other funding sources included Federal
Transportation grants, a $50,000 contribution from Milwaukee County, and private donations.

In addition to the iron and glass Art Stop structure, the glass bus shelter and utility boxes were moved to a new location in Bay View Park. Upon the insistence of District 14, Ald. Tony Zielinski, the boxes and glass shelter were moved so as not to disrupt the artistic integrity of the original Art Stop installation. —Rendering Jef Raasch


Zielinski was bitterly opposed to Art Stop’s removal. He sponsored three measures that failed to make it out of committee. Had they succeeded, the Finance Committee would have delegated a portion of the new budget to fund the replacement of Art Stop with a better-engineered replica or buoyed the existing structure with stronger and less unsightly materials.

Chagrined, but undeterred, Zielinski claimed a compromise victory when he persuaded city officials to allow him to purchase Art Stop for a dollar. Per a condition of the sale, Zielinski will pay for its deconstruction, removal, relocation, and re-engineering “so that it shall be converted, from a public nuisance and threat to public safety, to a public work that shall be structurally sound and camouflaged.”

The deal also gave the newly wealthy Zielinski the go ahead to purchase a quarter-acre section of Bay View Park opposite his new home on Superior Street.

A contingency of the purchase agreement between Zielinski and the city stipulates that the landscaping surrounding Art Stop must be designed “so as to make it impossible for the structure to be seen by pedestrians, skaters, babies in strollers, boaters, runners, yoga-in-the-park practitioners, bicyclists, dog-walkers, and/or those passing it in motorized vehicles.”

A source familiar with the project who spoke to the Compost on the condition of anonymity said that the landscape plan incorporates an ingenious sightline that affords a view of Art Stop from a balcony on the third story of the alderman’s $1.5 million dollar new home, currently in the early stages of construction.

The alderman broke ground for the house last July during the Frolics Blow-Up-The-Beach Fireworks Finale.

He said he hopes to move in by the end of August 2018.

—Rendering Jef Raasch

Art Stop Replacement To Provide Respite

An idyllic greenspace will offer shade and the comforting sound of plashing water cascading in a three-tiered fountain on the triangle of land formed by the intersections of Kinnickinnic, Lincoln, and Howell avenues. In summer, bus riders waiting to transfer at the busy Milwaukee County Transit System bus stop will be able to sit on the rim of the fountain and cool their burning feet in its chilled, crystalline water and bask in the shade of live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). During the colder months, the heated fountain pedestal and tiers will flow with piping-hot hot chocolate, powered by solar and wind energy.

This preliminary rendering illustrates the green, natural design that will replace the former Art Stop Bus Stop in the triangle formed by Kinnickinnic, Lincoln, and Howell avenues. The fountain will be the prominent feature of the north end of the triangle. An innovative bus shelter will be installed at the south end of the triangle to provide state-of-the art four season protection for those waiting for a bus. The new design is provisionally being called Garden Triangle Bus Stop. The garden and fountain elements were inspired by Stone Creek Coffee’s landscaping design. Stone Creek is located on the opposite side of Kinnickinnic, directly east of the triangle.

Inspired by the garden squares of Savannah, Ga., Bay View-based landscape architect Pierre-Joseph Redouté will create an environment to revive and protect bus riders and others, who wish to kick back in the minute pocket park. Under the direction of Sig Strautmanis, students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning will design a state-of-the-art bus shelter to provide riders with year-round protection from the elements. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee engineering students will design a white-noise producing audio component to neutralize traffic noise.

The project will be fully funded by twin grants from the Steven P. Jobs Tree of Knowledge Foundation and the Steven P. Jobs Dent in the Universe Foundation.

City officials anticipate the project will be completed by September 2018.

—Irenke Elkhälter

Copyright 2016 by Bay View Compass. All rights reserved.
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4 Comments on "City Condemns Art Stop Bus Stop"

  1. 2fs on Sun, 1st Apr 2018 4:40 pm 

    if only…

  2. Tony J on Mon, 2nd Apr 2018 11:31 am 

    April fools?

  3. UW Daily – April 3, 2018 | UW Daily on Tue, 3rd Apr 2018 11:05 am 

    […] UWM students to design state-of-the-art bus shelter, Bayview Compass, April […]

  4. D. on Tue, 17th Apr 2018 5:42 pm 

    Headline for next year’s follow-up article:

    “Zielinski arrested by FBI White Collar Crime Division on fraud, racketeering, and bribery charges for accepting illegal financial and in-kind kickbacks from building developers to fund his new million-dollar mansion, the most expensive and luxurious home in Bay View.”

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