Strauss Closes Door on Milwaukee Move
Plus: An abandoned basement discovered in former Grand Avenue Mall.
Strauss Brands is officially committed to expanding in suburban Franklin instead of relocating to Milwaukee. The meat processor confirmed its intentions in a public statement this week, ending months of speculation that the relocation might not be dead after all.
A proposal to relocate to Milwaukee’s Century City business park was in limbo since area Alderman Khalif Rainey came out against the deal in October, a reversal of the vegetarian’s vocal support for the deal. The company publicly said they were dropping the deal, but then didn’t publicly do anything else and the Common Council didn’t kill the files associated with the deal.
“After careful consideration, Strauss Brands has decided to stay in Franklin, our home for more than 50 years,” said Randy Strauss said in a statement this week. Tom Daykin reported Wednesday morning on a deal extension agreed to by the City of Franklin, with the company issuing the statement on Milwaukee later that day.
Mayor Tom Barrett was critical of others involved in the deal, a thinly veiled shot at his mayoral opponent Lena Taylor, during his 2020 State of the City speech on February 10th. “[Two-hundred and fifty] good jobs were turned away based on deliberately misleading false statements from people who put politics and naked self-interest ahead of the needs of Milwaukee residents. We cannot tolerate this,” said Barrett.
The project would not have directly impacted the proposed bailout of approximately $24.75 million in debt associated with developing the business park. On Thursday the board of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee approved reallocating excess property tax revenue from three downtown tax incremental financing districts to retire $13.4 million of that debt. That proposal, which would also fund downtown street repair and improvements to the edge of Cathedral Square Park, will next need Common Council approval.
A Grand Basement Discovery
The redevelopment of the former Grand Avenue Mall into The Avenue got a little bit bigger this week.
An annex building connecting the Matthews Building with the HUB640 building (formerly Boston Store) was discovered to have an approximately 12,000 square foot basement.
Redevelopment partner Josh Krsnak told the BizTimes that the space, discovered when a stairway was found during demolition, has high ceilings and is made of poured concrete. No specific plans have been made, but it could serve as an events space in the future. “It lays out perfectly for duckpin bowling,” he said. “The column spacing and all that lays out beautifully.”
Krsnak and his The Avenue business partner Tony Janowiec also acquired the four-story, Cream City brick building at 235-237 S. 2nd St. from Michael Spooner for $509,000. The partners do not have specific plans for the Walker’s Point property yet. The short-lived Likkle Jamayka restaurant was the last tenant in the building’s first-floor commercial space. City records indicate it was constructed in 1890. The building is across the street from nearly complete The Yards apartment building
Catholic School Tax Change Would Cost City
A proposal making its way through the Wisconsin State Legislature would make religious schools tax-exempt, even if the building is leased for profit, and place a further strain on the City of Milwaukee where over 33 percent of properties are already tax exempt.
Under current state law, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and other religious institutions that own school buildings and lease them to tax-exempt educational institutions must pay property taxes on the buildings if the lease revenue exceeds the property maintenance or debt retirement costs.
A new proposal, introduced on January 22nd, would make the properties property tax exempt, regardless of how much lease income is derived. The change would apply statewide.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is the lone entity to register in favor of the bill while the City of Milwaukee and Wisconsin Association of Assessing Officers have registered in opposition to the bill.
“The solution here is really quite simple,” said city lobbyist Brenda Wood in her testimony before a Senate committee. “It is not to expand the property tax exemption. Rather, the solution is for the religious institutions to follow current law and modify their leases to only charge the school for the cost of maintaining the building or for debt retirement or to file a claim of unlawful taxation against the city.” Wood said many other schools have already gone through this process and had their properties shifted to exempt status. Read more.
Renner Plans Third Ward Office Building
The three-story building would be located at the intersection of E. Erie St. and N. Jefferson St. on land Renner acquired in 2013 from the Chicago and North Western Railway and in a subsequent land swap.
Renner, in an interview, said the building would be well suited for a firm with 50 to 100 employees.
The first floor would contain indoor parking for 23 vehicles, while the upper levels would contain a total of 16,000 square feet of office space. An open-air deck is planned over the first-floor lobby.
Renner Architects would develop the building for a tenant or sell the site out-right as a turnkey development. The site is known as 100 N. Jefferson St. in renderings, but is currently part of a larger parcel with the address of 520 E. Summerfest Pl.
The Huron Rises Above
Downtown’s newest office building is now rising above its neighbors in the East Side Commercial Historic District.
J. Jeffers & Co. is developing the 11-story building, which will not only link a number of projects along E. Clybourn St., but help tie the Historic Third Ward to East Town. A streetscaping project, funded by increased tax revenue from the development, will further enhance the connection with lighting under Interstate 794.
The law firm will lease 71,000 square feet for 180 employees in the building. Its office space will be built with a variety of “me” and “we” spaces, intended to balance the need for private offices with a growing push for spaces for collaboration in modern office layouts. The firm, headquartered in Kansas City, believes the office design will be an asset in its future recruitment efforts. Read more.
January 2019 Renderings
April Start for Bay View Apartments
The building will consist of 15 studio apartments, two one-bedroom units and a live-work unit. “Rent will start at $995 and the building will be energy efficient,” said Genke. Eighteen indoor parking spaces will be included, as well as one outdoor space. Approximately 1,200 square feet of commercial space will be included on the building’s first floor.
City Wins Grant for New Park on 31st and Galena
The City’s MKE Plays initiative has scored another win.
A $372,050 National Park Service grant will fund the development of a new park on a 1.2-acre, brownfield site along N. 31st St. between W. Walnut St. and W. Galena St.
The 31st and Galena park, as the project is currently known, has a total budget of approximately $760,000. The city still needs to raise an additional $100,000 to fund the entire park.
The MKE Plays initiative, created in 2015 by Alderman Michael Murphy, has raised over $2 million to rebuild over 15 of the 62 city-owned parks. Led by Joe Kaltenberg, the program is housed in the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW).
The new park will have a host of unique amenities, including two courts for sepak takraw, a game from Southeast Asia described as “kick volleyball,” and a pump track for cyclists and other wheeled device users. Read more.
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