Master Lock Plan Closes City Streets
Company seeks city approval to close portions of two streets on its Center St. campus.
Oak Creek-based security products firm Master Lock is seeking to consolidate and secure its holdings around its Milwaukee manufacturing campus.
The company, which operates a multi-building campus near N. 32nd St. and W. Center St. with approximately 500 employees, is seeking city permission to close portions of N. 32nd St. and W. Wright St. at the south end of its campus. The city would give up control of the streets as part of the proposal, a move that Alderman Robert Bauman says will hurt any future redevelopment of the site.
But attorney Brian Randall of Davis & Kuetlhau defended the proposal at the City Plan Commission meeting on Monday. “This is a less-traveled roadway. It goes right through their campus,” he explained.
Randall said the street vacations would allow the manufacturer to reconfigure its parking lots and provide a controlled entrance to visitors and vendors. The streets, only bordered by Master Lock-owned vacant lots, would be closed to the public with decorative-metal fences. The city previously vacated the portion of N. 32nd St. that runs from W. Center St. to W. Wright St. near Master Lock’s buildings.
“We do have an existing security station on our building, but it doesn’t allow us to vet out traffic prior to admission to the campus,” said Sean Melville, director of environmental health, safety and security for Master Lock, on Monday.
The City Plan Commission unanimously recommended approving the change, but the proposal faced much more scrutiny when it came before the Common Council’s Public Works Committee on Wednesday.
“They’re scared of their neighborhood. They have to close off streets, wall themselves in basically. Is that what this is?” asked Bauman on Wednesday.
“It’s wide open and there is traffic going through campus right now,” said Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee project manager Benji Timm. To which Bauman shot back: “That’s what happens in cities.”
“This is becoming an increasing function to give away public right-of-way to companies that change their mind, move overseas,” Bauman charged. He was critical of the fact that should Master Lock move the city would not have the right to reclaim the former street.
“Why don’t we lease them the street?” asked Bauman. He said maintaining the properties as smaller parcels would allow for easier redevelopment in the future.
“Right now it’s my understanding they are doing pretty well at that facility and this is a more flexible option,” said Timm. “This is something that will keep them here.”
The city representative said the plan amounted to a $3 million investment. “I think it sends a bad message if we turn down opportunities like this,” said Timm.
Master Lock has paid the required $156,000 impact fee to vacate the street.
The street segments to be vacated include W. Wright St. from the alley east of N. 33rd St. to N. 32nd St. and N. 32nd St. from W. Wright St. to three homes on N. 32nd St.
“To just vacate, which means we lose it forever, I can’t support that,” said Bauman. The measure passed the committee on a 3-2 vote, with Bauman and Ald. Nik Kovac voting no.
Master Lock has operated its Center Street campus since the 1930s. The company today is a subsidiary of the publicly-traded Fortune Brands Home & Security.
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