Graham Kilmer
Plats and Parcels

Post Office, Company Fight Over Downtown Property

Plus: Where should Public Museum move? And what's an Opportunity Zone?

By - Oct 28th, 2018 08:21 pm
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Milwaukee Main Post Office. Photo by Christopher Hillard.

Milwaukee Main Post Office. Photo by Christopher Hillard.

The United States Postal Service gave its first public response this week to an eviction lawsuit regarding its massive facility at 341 W. St. Paul Ave.

In September, R2 Companies filed the suit citing damage at the property as the basis for eviction. Specifically, it pointed to various leaks, moss and vegetation growing on the roof and damage to concrete ramps.

In its first response since this fracas began, USPS asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, as Sean Ryan reported in the Milwaukee Business Journal. According to R2, the whole situation was triggered when the Postal Service asked them to repair some of the damage, at which point R2 told them the lease stipulated they were responsible for any damage, Ryan reported.

For their part, U.S. attorneys representing the Postal Service said they were not obligated to repair the damage immediately, and therefore the grounds for the suit were invalid.

As Tom Daykin reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the attorneys also argued the suit failed to explain what damage R2 was suffering as a result of the repairs going undone at this point.

R2 wants to redevelop the complex for a new user. In 2016 the company released conceptual plans for a large multi-use redevelopment of the site. The Postal Service re-upped its lease this year, and has options to stay in the building through 2040.

USPS has explored moving to Oak Creek in the past, but lacks the capital to build a new facility.

Could Public Museum Move to Mitchell Park?

If it gets approval from the full Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, a task force will soon investigate whether or not the new Milwaukee Public Museum should be located in Mitchell Park alongside the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservancy, commonly known as The Domes.

The proposal comes from Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic. And along with the proposed move to Mitchell Park it also recommends the governance structures for the horticultural conservancy and the public museum be combined.

The museum will move out of its building at 800 W. Wells St. into a new building estimated to cost more than $100 million. The organization has been reportedly examining a number of sites downtown. It’s expected the future building will be roughly the size of a city block and four stories tall.

Dr. Ellen Censky, interim president and CEO of the museum said Mitchell Park is another possibility and added the museum is interested in the findings of the task force.

Opportunity Zones

A federal program ostensibly using tax incentives to steer investment into areas with low employment and income may collaterally cause gentrification, and also appears to have been implemented not in the spirit of the program.

Daykin broke this story with a detailed piece handling the complexity of this issue.

From a high level, the program is well-intentioned, but its implementation has some worried it could cause gentrification, and others wondering whether it’s really pushing development to the areas that need it incentivized.

For example, Daykin reported that one of the opportunity zones created in Milwaukee includes an area on the north end of downtown that has recently seen a lot of real estate investment. It includes the massive The North End development, Rhythm apartments and the Hammes Company’s headquarters.

Opportunity Zones, selected by the governor of each state, provide capital gains tax relief for long-term investments in these zones.

Daykin quotes Department of City Development spokesperson Jeff Fleming saying rather dryly that the dubious downtown Opportunity Zone was not one prioritized by the city. The city recommended a list of areas to the state.

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