Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Committee Okays Reed Street Yards Fix

Sewer being relocated to accommodate development. But by which company?

By - Dec 11th, 2019 12:02 pm
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Reed Street Yards. Photo taken July 22nd, 2016 by Jeramey Jannene.

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

Funding for a sewer relocation that could create hundreds of jobs in Walker’s Point was recommended for approval Tuesday.

The $4 million proposal will replace two Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) sewers, that cross the Reed Street Yards business parks, but don’t directly serve the 15-acre site formed from a former rail yard and trucking facility.

The site, located just south of the Harley-Davidson Museum, is one of the largest plots of land available near Downtown.

City officials and partners General Capital Group and Peter Moede originally believed buildings could be placed atop the sewers, which are up to five-feet wide, when the business park was constructed almost a decade ago. But that changed in the past five years after discussions with new personnel at MMSD, said Moede in November when the proposal was first announced. The new sewers will follow the perimeter of the remaining, undeveloped parcels instead of bisecting virtually every lot.

The move comes as Brown Deer-based Rite-Hite is rumored to be considering relocating to the business park.

Department of City Development economic development specialist Dan Casanova briefed the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee on the proposal. The funding for the proposal would come from a $12.6 million tax incremental financing (TIF) district created to support the privately-owned site’s development.

“I think the total cost is going to be about $4 million,” said Casanova. A final figure will be available after a portion of the funds are used to complete an engineering plan.

“We’re not increasing the budget of the project, we’re just reallocating funds from one line item to another,” said Casanova.

The plan involves re-appropriating 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.

The remaining funding would come from the balance left in a $1 million Idle Sites grant from the state’s Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

“I’m just glad this is moving forward. In hindsight, it should have been done with the original infrastructure work,” said area Alderman Jose G. Perez.

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. The TIF includes funding for everything from a new riverwalk segment and street to a water feature and venture fund.

Including the land consumed by public infrastructure, Casanova told the committee that approximately nine developable acres remain.

“Has there been any interest?” asked Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II. At least two of his fellow committee members laughed, while Casanova gave a diplomatic response indicating that the partners pursue every potential tenant.

The laughs came because multiple sources have indicated the city and its partners are in discussions with Rite-Hite Holding Corporation to relocate its headquarters to the site. The company manufactures loading dock equipment, industrial doors, safety barriers, industrial fans and other products for warehouse operators. According to a 2017 report, the company has 220 employees in Brown Deer. The company reports it has more than 2,200 employees worldwide.

General Capital’s Linda Gorens-Levey told Urban Milwaukee in November 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. The site was a finalist in the competition for a new headquarters for Fiserv, but the company has not moved forward with its relocation.

And even if neither deal — with Fiserv or Rite-Hite — ever comes to fruition, the relocation of sewers will be necessary to efficiently develop the remaining parcels.

The committee unanimously approved the plan, mirroring a similar vote from the redevelopment authority board in November. The proposal will next go before the full Common Council.

According to a city report, through the end of 2018 the district has created $23.2 million more in incremental tax base than expected, generating an additional $3 million in incremental annual tax revenue. The district is scheduled to pay off its debt and close 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.

Sewer Images

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