Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Committee Approves $60 Million Century City Deal

City would give the Strauss Brands up to $4.5 million if it creates 500 jobs.

By - Oct 8th, 2019 11:46 am
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Strauss Brands facility rendering. Rendering by ESI Design Services.

Strauss Brands facility rendering. Rendering by ESI Design Services.

The Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee unanimously approved the creation of a tax incremental financing (TIF) district and an associated land sale for Strauss Brands‘ $60 million proposal to build a meat processing facility in Century City.

The company anticipates having 500 employees in the central city business park by 2031, at least 250 of which would be in newly created jobs. It would relocate its headquarters and operations from Franklin to the city as part of the deal.

Strauss intends to build an approximately 210,000 square-foot facility. The facility is being designed to process 500 live animals daily into packaged meat products from west to east, a deliberate design decision to keep the animals away from the nearby homes.

The facility would have the capability of processing 100 million pounds of meat annually said Strauss Chief Financial Officer Jerry Bussen.

The city, through the TIF district, will provide up to $4.5 million plus interest to the company in the form of a property tax rebate over a maximum of 25 years. To receive the entire allotment the facility must meet an approximately $10 million property tax assessment target and the full-time jobs paid 150 percent the federal minimum wage must grow from 250 to 500. The company would receive a pro-rated amount if it does not meet both targets.

The company would purchase 20 acres from the city located just north of the former Tower Automotive facility now leased by train equipment manufacturer Talgo. The site, to be sold to Strauss for $1, would be carved out of an approximately 45-acre site at 3025 W. Hopkins St. between Talgo and the Century City I building now owned by Good City Brewing.

Strauss refers to the facility as a “harvesting” facility, but Bussen confirmed to Alderman Robert Bauman that it is in fact a slaughterhouse, but would not have a rendering plant to process animal waste.

“We are cognizant of our neighbors,” said Bussen. He said the animals would be stored indoors, waste would be dropped into the building’s specially-designed basement to reduce odors and trucked to another facility.

Animals would be shipped to the facility from Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana said Bussen and stay on the facility one to two hours before being processed. “We will do a lot of landscaping so you will not be able to see those animals,” said Bussen,

Ald. Khalif Rainey, chair of the committee and in whose district the project would be built, said he welcomes the development and looks forward to Strauss working with the area neighborhoods.

The company anticipates it would start hiring for positions at the new facility in April 2021 and opening the new plant shortly thereafter.

The company, which is canceling a plan to build a new facility in Franklin, was drawn to Century City site by the ability to leverage Opportunity Zone funds, city support and an available, nearby labor force. “We found that we have a lot of employees already commuting in from this area,” said Bussen in September. The Strauss family sold a majority of the company to a private equity firm earlier this year, but maintains an ownership interest and handles day-to-day management.

As is standard for TIF districts exceeding $1 million, during construction Strauss will be required to hire unemployed or underemployed city residents to perform 40 percent of the project’s work hours. At least 25 percent of the project’s contracts by dollar value must be performed by city-certified Small Business Enterprises firms owned by minorities or other disadvantaged groups.

The land sale and TIF creation will be reviewed by the full Common Council at its October 15th meeting.

ESI Group is serving as a design-build contractor on the project.

Plant Designs

Century City

What’s Next for Century City?

“We think we’ve turned a corner at Century City,” said Department of City Development (DCD) project manager Benji Timm. He said interest is much higher following the Good City Brewing, Talgo and Strauss announcements.

Good City Brewing bought the Century City I speculative industrial building one year ago. “They’ve been great partners, great advocates for Century City,” said Timm. Talgo is targeting to grow its Milwaukee employment base to 90 following winning two railcar repair agreements with California agencies.

The 80-acre district, carved out of the former Tower Automotive campus that once employed over 5,000 employees, has been available for move-in since 2014 The city acquired most of the former Tower site, consisting of a number of large parcels, in 2009.

A substantial amount of land remains available for development, including approximately 20 acres next to Strauss and a newly-acquired 13.72-acre site on the other side of the railroad tracks.

Timm estimated that when federal, state and local funds are considered approximately $40 million has been spent to clean up the Century City area and prepare it for development.

One looming problem is a currently underwater TIF district that was used to contribute $15.5 million to the cleanup. Created in 2009, the assessed value of the more than 1,000 properties in the district, many single-family homes and duplexes, are down. DCD economic development specialist Dan Casanova said the department anticipates having to donate funds from overperforming districts to pay off debt associated with the Century City district.

The newly created district, which lies within the boundaries of the larger district, would remove the Strauss property from the original district, but should help boost values and development potential of other properties within the district said Casanova and Timm.

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