Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

RACM Okays $3.4 Million Reed Street Yards Fix

New sewers being built to help attract future tenants, possibly Rite-Hite HQ.

By - Nov 21st, 2019 05:35 pm
Reed Street Yards. Photo taken July 22nd, 2016 by Jeramey Jannene.

Reed Street Yards. Photo taken July 22nd, 2016 by Jeramey Jannene.

The city’s redevelopment authority board approved an estimated $3.4 million plan to relocate large (four to five feet wide) sewers out of the way of potential buildings in the city’s Reed Street Yards business park. The move could be a precursor to Rite-Hite relocating its corporate headquarters from Brown Deer to the Walker’s Point site.

The city and master developers General Capital Group and Peter Moede originally believed that the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) sewers could be built upon, but that changed in the past five years said Moede.

Now, in order to better prepare the 15-acre Walker’s Point site for development, the city is proposing to build new sewers that follow the perimeter of the business park instead of bisecting virtually every lot. The city created the business park in 2011, which included extending W. Freshwater Way from S. 3rd St. to The Tannery complex on the west side of S. 6th St. A total of $12.6 million, via a tax incremental financing district (TIF), was approved to be spent on everything from a new riverwalk segment and street to a water feature and venture fund.

Department of City Development (DCD) economic development specialist Dan Casanova presented the plan to the board of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon.

“There is no increase in the overall [TIF] budget,” said Casanova. The plan involves reappropriating money from a $5 million fund intended to attract companies to the area. A total of $1.6 million from that allocation was used to attract Zurn, then a Pennsylvania company, to the business park. The Rexnord subsidiary constructed a three-story office building on the western edge of the business park.

Showing a map of the sewers, which connect to the Deep Tunnel system, Casanova said “those obviously need to be relocated for the Reed Street Yards to be built out to its highest and best use.”

“It’s a couple month process just to do the design, so we want to do that so we’re ready if someone wants to come to Reed Street Yards,” said the development specialist. That “someone” could be Rite-Hite, with news breaking last week that the firm is considering relocating to the site. It hasn’t commented publicly on the matter, nor did Mayor Tom Barrett in an interview.

The city could also allocate remaining funding from a $1 million Idle Sites grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to fund the sewer work.

“Why didn’t we do this several years ago?” asked Casanova before ticking off a list of reasons including the lack of incremental property value at the time, the uncertainty on where to relocate them and the assumption that buildings could probably be built atop them.

The district, which includes the Iron Horse Hotel, Tannery complex, Brix Apartment Lofts and a number of other redeveloped buildings, is outperforming expectations, said Casanova. According to a city report through the end of 2018 the district has generated $24 million more in incremental value than expected and over $3 million in incremental revenue. The district is scheduled to be closed in 2023 at its current pace, but that could accelerate with the pending completion of The Yards apartment building and a third redevelopment project from Ann Pieper Eisenbrown in the district.

This isn’t the first time sewer relocation has been contemplated in recent years. General Capital’s Linda Gorens-Levey told Urban Milwaukee that her firm considered relocating a portion of the sewer as part of an attempt to attract financial services firm Fiserv to the business park. General Capital’s Reed Street Yards site was a finalist in the competition for a new company headquarters for Fiserv, but the latter has not moved forward with its relocation.

Construction on the sewer relocation, which could take up to nine months to complete, would not start until a tenant emerges for the Reed Street Yards.

The business park’s name is a reference to the site’s use as a railroad yard along S. 2nd St. (formerly Reed Street). The site was later used as a trucking terminal before being cleared in the early 2000s.

The proposed TIF amendment requires Common Council approval and will next be reviewed by the council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee.

Sewer Images

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