Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

No New State Office Building Until 2022?

Bauman warns of delays for 27th St. project; Near West Side Partners plans safeguards on deal.

By - Feb 4th, 2020 03:18 pm
27th and Wisconsin redevelopment option. Site plan by Quorum Architects.

27th and Wisconsin redevelopment option. Site plan by Quorum Architects.

Alderman Robert Bauman wants the public to know something: sure, the public discussion is heating up around a potential new state office building at N. 27th St. and Wisconsin Ave., but the project is at best three years from opening.

The project would involve a 200,000-square-foot office building with 680 parking stalls. The state, under a plan first introduced in 2018 by then-Governor Scott Walker, would relocate most or all of its employees from its downtown office building at 819 N. 6th St. But funding for the project has become a partisan matter.

“The bulldozers and tower cranes are not arriving next month if we approve this,” said Bauman during a meeting Tuesday morning of the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. The committee was considering approval of a zoning package that would unify 17 parcels that form the development site at the southwest corner of the intersection.

The non-profit Near West Side Partners (NWSP), led by Keith Stanley, has spent four years and approximately $1.5 million acquiring all of the parcels to assemble the site. The organization is backed by the area’s anchor institutions including Marquette UniversityHarley-DavidsonMillerCoorsAurora Health Care and Potawatomi Business Development Corporation.

“Ultimately our goal is to ensure this site is prepared for an end user,” said Stanley.

“We received a letter of intent from the state office to move forward possibly with the sale of the property,” said Stanley last week when the project was before the City Plan Commission. The citizen-led body recommended the council approve the zoning change.

“It needs to be understood that there could be no development on this site for years,” said Bauman. “The only money the state has appropriated is to acquire real estate and not to build the building.”

Governor Tony Evers proposed spending $98.5 million to advance the project in his 2019-2021 budget, but the Republican-controlled Legislature stripped the bonding authority for the project. The Department of Administration restarted the process by issuing a request for proposals (RFP) in September. Responses were due by October 21st with an announcement expected in approximately eight weeks according to the RFP’s project timeline. The state’s Building Commission would still need to approve the project. The Legislature would also need to fund the project, starting with its 2021-2023 budget.

“It could be 2022 before anything gets built and that’s the best case scenario,” said the alderman.

“What’s plan B?” asked Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs.

“We’ve always anticipated no matter what we would like to see a catalytic development at this site,” said Stanley.

But Bauman said the state could end up owning the land with no building and fail to regularly plow or clean the site.

Stanley said a clawback would be included in the sale agreement. “We want to make sure we have full control of that property so it’s in the community’s best interest,” said the NWSP leader. He said the organization would include a clawback that went into effect alongside the 2021 biennial budget.

Stanley said the organization has contracted with RPM, a black-owned firm from the neighborhood to keep the properties clean for the time being. The site is across N. 27th St. from another state office building, a 64,000-square-foot, privately-owned building built and leased to the Department of Children and Families.

Bauman moved approval, with the committee unanimously endorsed the zoning change.

For more information on the site and proposed building, see our report from last week.

Site Plans

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Related Legislation: File 191357

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