Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

V. Marchese Acquiring More Land for Expansion

Company buying former railroad spur for 50,000-square-foot expansion.

By - Oct 8th, 2019 04:01 pm
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Railroad spur to be acquired by V. Marchese. Company facility in the background. Photo by Jeramey Jannene., October 2018

Railroad spur to be acquired by V. Marchese. Company facility in the background. Photo by Jeramey Jannene., October 2018

Fruit and vegetable wholesaler V. Marchese Inc. is acquiring more city land for its planned expansion.

The company, which hopes to grow its employment base at its Walker’s Point facility by 50 to 100 employees, purchased a 107,600-square-foot lot south of its facility in 2018 from the city. That land will be used for an employee parking lot.

Now the company is back to purchase a long and narrow 37,512-square-foot lot at 207 E. Florida St. that was last used as a railroad spur by Union Pacific. The city acquired the property in 1994 as part of creating the Florida Yards development that brought Marchese and Usinger’s to Walker’s Point.

As part of its expansion, Marchese intends to build a 40,000 to 50,000-square-foot addition on the west side of its facility. The expansion would cover the portion of the spur that is on Marchese’s land and a portion of its existing employee parking lot and truck queuing area.

But the railroad still held an easement to the long-unused spur.

“Railroad companies being railroad companies, they wouldn’t allow Marchese to just buy or take control of a portion of their spur, they want them to take all of it,” said Department of City Development project manager Benji Timm in September. “They paid a significant amount to take that railroad easement.” That included buying out the easement on the city’s portion of the spur.

“It’s not all for naught,” said Timm. “They will remove the railroad spur and use it for truck queuing.” The city will sell the parcel for $1.

“We have about 60 trucks already,” said Marchese Chief Financial Officer Josh Weber on Tuesday when the proposal was before the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. “We will need more trucks.”

Weber said the new parking lot will open in December. The city had struggled to sell the site because it hemmed in by two railroad spurs and at a higher elevation than the roadway at E. National Ave.

The company was founded in 1934 in a space on N. Broadway in the Historic Third Ward in an era when Commission Row was a row of wholesalers and not fashion boutiques. It moved to its current home at 600 S. Jake Marchese Way, an access road off of E. Florida St., in 2003 according to city records.

The company reported it had 276 employees in 2018.

In addition to the two city-owned parcels, an affiliate of Marchese purchased the former horse barn on E. National Ave. in 2016 for $425,000. It will demolish that structure to make room for its expanded facility.

The spur formerly served the Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) campus which ran from E. Pittsburgh Ave. to E. Florida St. Roers Companies is redeveloping the southernmost complex in the former campus into a 116-unit apartment complex known as Maxwell Lofts. Many of the former PPG buildings have been redeveloped as part of the South Water Works development. The Mandel Group unveiled a proposal in September to redevelop the former Wisconsin Cold Storage site, just east of PPG’s former campus, in September that will further reshape the area.

As part of the sale agreement, Marchese is required to remove the railroad tracks from the property and E. Florida St. within 24 months of closing.

“I just want to congratulate V. Marchese on the success they’ve had,” said area Alderman Jose G. Perez. He praised the company for staying in the neighborhood. The committee unanimously endorsed the land sale.

The proposal will next go before the Common Council.

According to the city’s land disposition report, Usinger’s approved of Marchese’s acquisition of the parcel bordering its Walker’s Point facility.

Parking Lot Plans

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Related Legislation: File 190876

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