The Recombobulation Area is a ten-time Milwaukee Press Club award-winning weekly opinion column and online publication written, edited and published by longtime Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here.
A couple months ago, Omar Shaikh and I got in a bit of a disagreement on Twitter.
Actually, let’s back up a bit first.
In early December of last year, Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill passed by the Wisconsin State Legislature to keep the Milwaukee Brewers in the city until 2050. The bill, committing more than $500 million in public funds to the stadium, passed with a bipartisan vote in November, and among the pieces of the deal that emerged through negotiations was the creation of a task force to study the possibility of developing around American Family Field — something we’ve called the “Beer District.”
This “Beer District” concept is something we advocated for here at The Recombobulation Area in a 2022 guest column by urban planner Robin Palm, as well as in our Milwaukee Press Club award-winning column from 2021, “Tear Down the Stadium Freeway in Milwaukee.”
This idea gained a considerable amount of attention since this column was published, and is something that leaders like Mayor Cavalier Johnson and County Executive David Crowley have expressed support for. The mayor, in particular, advocated for a “Beer District”-type of development to be part of future plans during negotiations over the bill to keep the Brewers in Milwaukee.
While it was encouraging to see a task force and study on a “pathway to development” make the final bill, what was not included in the legislation was any firm commitment to take any concrete action at the study’s conclusion.
In the days following the bill signing, A.J. Bayatpour of CBS 58 reported on the possibility of future development around the ballpark. As part of that report, he interviewed Omar Shaikh, in his role as the chairman of the Home Crew Coalition, a group formed to advocate support for the bill to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding for upgrades and maintenance at the Brewers stadium, keeping the team in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future.
In that report, Shaikh said he opposed the development of a “Beer District,” saying it was unrealistic.
That’s the part I disagreed with, and I took to Twitter to voice that disagreement. We had a little back-and-forth over this, and eventually agreed to sit down for an interview on the topic.
So, this week, we got together at 3rd Street Market Hall for a one-on-one interview to talk about the “Beer District” concept.
“You know what, I'll say this,” said Shaikh. “I probably shouldn't have said I'm in opposition to (a “Beer District”). I don't think that's fair that I said that. I actually might be for it…I just don't see how you can make financial sense of it. I think it's on an island by itself over there. Listen, in a perfect world, you do the “Beer District,” build Menomonee Valley, and you tie (it to) downtown — believe me, I believe in growth of neighborhoods that would tie us together — I just don't see it happening. I just don't.”
Shaikh and I also discussed his work with the Home Crew Coalition, this week’s news about 3rd Street Market Hall having a presence in American Family Field, the RNC in Milwaukee, being “more bullish on Milwaukee” than ever, and much more.
You can hear our full conversation here as a podcast. We also have a full transcript of this interview, and paid subscribers to The Recombobulation Area can read that here.
Dan Shafer is a journalist from Milwaukee who writes and publishes The Recombobulation Area. He’s also written for The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Heartland Signal, Belt Magazine, WisPolitics, and Milwaukee Record. He previously worked at Seattle Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine, and BizTimes Milwaukee. He’s won 17 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. He’s on Twitter at @DanRShafer.
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