Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

New Life for Old Century City Factory?

Plus: Fiserv Forum's design firm wins award and what's next for Watts Tea Shop sign?

By - Jul 8th, 2019 12:06 am
4265 N. 30th St. Image from Bing Maps.

4265 N. 30th St. Image from Bing Maps.

The news, first announced in December 2018, that DRS Naval Power Systems would relocate its 449 employees from Milwaukee to Menomonee Falls was a major blow to the city’s efforts to develop the Century City Business Park and surrounding area. But the company’s approximately 450,000-square-foot building at 4265 N. 30th St. could see new life.

Tom Ryan, president of Jonco Industries, purchased the property for $3.5 million in late June according to state records. Ryan hasn’t commented publicly on his plans for the 22.5-acre site yet, but the manufacturing leader and real estate investor has already made at least one investment in the area going back to 2012. Ryan purchased the seven-story Century City Tower at 4201 N. 27th St. from Eaton when it moved its Milwaukee operations to Menomonee Falls. The tower is now home to the Midwest Energy Research Consortium and a host of other office users.

Jonco is based one mile north of the DRS site at 2800 W. Custer Ave.

DRS Naval Power Systems, now part of Leonardo DRS, was once part of Eaton Corp. and before that Cutler-Hammer. The defense contractor received a package of state and local incentives to finance its relocation to Menomonee Falls.

The Century City site, of which the DRS facility is just north, has been targeted for redevelopment by the city for the past decade. Once part of the sprawling A.O. Smith campus, the site is now largely vacant land. Talgo and a handful of other manufacturers have leased space in the remaining buildings for various projects, including subway car repair and pre-assembling the glass facade for a downtown skyscraper.

Last year, Good City Brewing purchased the new building in the development, Century City I, for less than the cost to develop it. The purchase, according to Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee assistant executive director Dave Misky, was supported substantially by the building’s location within a federally-designated, tax-advantaged Opportunity Zone.

A recent hearing of the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee illuminated why the city has been struggled to find tenants. A representative of Western Buildings Products, which is proposing to develop a new 200-job facility on the city’s far northwest side, said the company was offered free land in Century City, but didn’t think the site was a good fit. The company representative said the lack of nearby freeway access and the fact that few of its employees live near Century City made the site less desirable.

Eppstein Uhen Wins Award for Design of Fiserv Forum

Milwaukee-based architecture firm Eppstein Uhen Architects received a design award in June for its work integrating wood into the design of Fiserv Forum. The firm received the second annual Wisconsin Urban Wood Utilization Award from non-profit Wisconsin Urban Wood for its work using over 20,000 board feet of “urban white oak lumber” from Wudeward Urban Forest Products in bar ceilings, concession stands and tables. Upcycled wood was also used in an 18-foot backdrop for a private club on the arena’s first floor.

Eppstein served as the architect of record on the Milwaukee Bucks‘ new arena. The firm collaborated with arena design firm Populous.

Lumber-supplier Wudeward harvests lumber from trees located in streets, backyards and parks that would be removed as a result of other projects. Wudeward has supplied lumber to a growing number of area projects, including the Mandel Group‘s DoMUS apartments.

Watts Tea Shop Sign to be Saved

Watts Tea Shop is gone, but the downtown shop’s sign won’t be tossed in the garbage.

The sign was removed last week as part of Continuum Architects + Planners conversion of the building’s second floor into its new offices. The sign will be donated to the Milwaukee County Historical Society according to a report from Sean Ryan.

“It has many layers of history and now we are adding our own layer to it,” said Continuum principal Vaishali Wagh. “It’s not recognized as the Watts tea room anymore. So now that we’ve bought the building we felt it was time we added our own stamp.”

The architecture firm purchased the two-story building at 761 N. Jefferson St. for $1.5 million earlier this year. The tea shop/restaurant and china store closed in 2016, converting to an online-only business. It had been in the building since 1929, having operated out of other downtown buildings in the preceding decades.

For more on the project and the terracotta-clad building, see our coverage from April.

Western Building Products Deal on Hold

A proposal for a Wauwatosa-based millwork distributor to relocate to the city’s northwest side is on hold, at least for a few weeks. After spending more than an hour hearing testimony about the proposal, a council decided to hold until its next meeting a rezoning request and city subsidy for the company’s proposed move to the Joy Farms site along Interstate 41 on the city’s northwest side.

City officials have been working with the company since October 2018, but neighbors still have a number of questions about the proposal. As does Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, who said she just heard about the proposal and believes her constituents will have concerns. A corner of Lewis’ district, at N. 107 St. and W. Calumet Rd. is .95 miles from the site. “It’s not a slight on the company, but you didn’t talk to us,” said Lewis. Learn more.

Unique Downtown High-Rise Gets Green Light

A rezoning request to allow the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee‘s (HACM) to build a mixed-income, 32-story apartment tower was approved at a council committee Tuesday morning.

The city-affiliated authority, through its development arm Travaux Inc., intends to build a $150 million tower on the parking lot and green space immediately south of its Convent Hill senior housing building at 455 E. Ogden Ave. Approximately 40,000 square feet of office space would be included in the building’s five-story podium.

The proposal would include high-end housing, as well as affordable units interspersed throughout the building. See more about the project in our complete coverage from Tuesday.

New Downtown Bank in Old House

North Shore Bank will open an 1,800-square-foot branch at 510 E. Pleasant St., just east of N. Water St. The new branch will mix a modern office building with a historic home currently on the site.

The house, which was constructed in 1930 according to the Wisconsin Historical Society, would be used as the bank’s front door, while a glassy addition will be built to its west overlooking N. Water St. See the house today and learn more in our latest installment of Friday Photos.

Ogden Proposal Gets Thumbs Up

Ogden Multifamily Partners proposal to build a 76-unit apartment building on the Lower East Side was unanimously approved by the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee Tuesday morning. The developer, an arm of Ogden & Company, needs a triangular site just south of the intersection of N. Jackson St. and N. Water St. to be rezoned to accommodate its proposal. Learn more.

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