Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Mystery Company Bringing 250 Jobs

And even better, in Century City, as part of city's effort to redevelop Tower Automotive site.

By - Sep 3rd, 2019 03:18 pm
Hopkins Street Development Site. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Hopkins Street Development Site. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Sometime this week city officials will gather to announce “a long-established Wisconsin company” bringing 250 jobs to Century City.

The Department of City Development sent out an advisory Tuesday morning regarding an afternoon press conference, but just a few hours later a department spokesperson announced the event was postponed. “The agreement with the company remains in place, and we anticipate a formal announcement in the next day or two,” said Jeff Fleming in an email about the mystery company.

“The company will build the 175,000-square foot facility on twenty acres along the west side of Hopkins Street,” said the initial release. “The company anticipates breaking ground later this year and beginning operations in 2021. Initially, it will bring 250 people to its new location; that number could grow to 500.”

Should those numbers hold true, it would amount to a major victory for the city in its efforts to redevelop the former Tower Automotive complex. Only incremental progress has been made to date in transforming the empty campus that once employed over 5,000 people making automotive parts.

The city, through the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM), acquired much of the 80-acre site in 2009. Through a tax-incremental financing district, the city has invested millions in cleaning up the site for development, but little has come so far.

The city partnered with General Capital Group on developing a speculative, 51,160-square-foot industrial building located at the southwest corner of W. Capitol Dr. and N. 31st St. But no permanent user was found when the building opened in 2016, with a firm temporarily occupying the space to finish basketball courts for Fiserv Forum.

But good news came in 2018 when Good City Brewing stepped in to buy the building, albeit for less than the cost to build it. “From my perspective, this is the most important step we have taken to move Century City forward,” said Mayor Tom Barrett when the deal was announced in July 2018. Good City formally opened its doors in August 2019.

The city, through RACM, continues to seek greater site control in Century City. In late July, the Common Council approved the acquisition of a 13.72-acre parcel at 3940 N. 35th St. The parcel, located across the railroad tracks from the Good City building, was the last remaining piece owned by an affiliate of Tower Automotive. Environmental cleanup is needed before the site is available for development.

Train manufacturer Talgo continues to lease space in a former Tower Automotive building at the south end of Century City along W. Townsend St. The Spanish company originally opened the plant to assemble high-speed rail train sets for Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington, but closed after that work was completed and Wisconsin failed to develop a maintenance facility to put the trainsets into service locally. The company reopened with the announcement of a contract to rebuild subway cars for Los Angeles and a similar agreement in 2019 to rebuild commuter rail passenger cars for a Los Angeles area regional rail system. The later contract is slated to last 56 months.

A financing package for the proposed development by the unnamed company shouldn’t be a challenge to get through the council. Area Alderman Khalif Rainey, who was scheduled to attend the press conference with Barrett, Ald. Robert Bauman and others on the council have advocated greater subsidies for businesses coming to Century City as a means of alleviating poverty and rebuilding the surrounding area.

Jonco Potential

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, 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, Northwest Side Community Development Corporation 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 suburban Menomonee Falls.

Century City Access Problems

The most frequent issue cited by prospective companies about Century City has been the lack of direct freeway access. Unlike the city’s highly successful effort to transform the Menomonee Valley located adjacent to Interstate 94, Century City is located almost two miles from Interstate 43.

“The biggest concern we had is wanting to be close to our people,” said Western Building Products executive Bill Zacher in July about the company’s decision to move to the city’s far northwest side. “Also, the freeway isn’t quite there.” He acknowledged that the company could have had a good deal from the city to move to Century City. “It just didn’t work out.”

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2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Mystery Company Bringing 250 Jobs”

  1. Nicholas La Joie says:

    ““The biggest concern we had is wanting to be close to our people,” said Western Building Products executive Bill Zacher in July about the company’s decision to move to the city’s far northwest side. ”


  2. Duane says:

    “The most frequent issue cited by prospective companies about Century City has been the lack of direct freeway access”.

    In December the Journal ran a story about an outfit called “Transit Innovations LLC” and their efforts to raise $1.4B to develop a commuter rail system around the metro Milwaukee area. The first “station” on their “E-Way System” was Century City (20 “stations” in total). The system also extended out to Waukesha and Brookfield. Maybe if a transit system like this existed it would help in developing this site, maybe not. Probably will never happen anyway so why did I waste time and bother bringing it up? Should just sit back and crank up “I’m in Love With My Car” by Queen.

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