Jeramey Jannene
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River One Rises Over Harbor District

Michels' new office building hits the heights.

By - Mar 20th, 2020 08:12 pm
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River One in the Harbor District. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

River One in the Harbor District. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The signature building at Michels Corp.‘s River One development at the intersection of S. 1st St. and W. Becher St. now towers over the surrounding area.

The eight-story building, the first of five buildings planned for the site, will be home to Michels’ Milwaukee office. It’s located at the northwest corner of the six-acre site that was once home to Horny Goat Brewing.

Michels, which is headquartered in rural Brownsville just outside of Fond du Lac, will anchor the office building with its new civil infrastructure division. Many of the positions in the 250-employee division will be in engineering or other highly-technical fields. “People that, quite frankly, are easier to recruit in Milwaukee than other places,” said Michels’ Chief Legal Officer David Stegeman in September 2018. Firm vice president Tim Michels said in August 2018 that he hopes the firm will eventually employ 800 people at the site.

The company has more than 5,000 employees according to company officials. Michels’ website boasts that the firm has over 12,000 pieces of equipment and 40 locations.

Architecture firm RINKA is leading the complex’s design. Gilbane Building Co. is serving as the general contractor.

The $49 million first phase is planned to include the office building, 1,052-stall parking garage and riverwalk segment along the Kinnickinnic River, which wraps the west and north side of the project site.

An apartment building along S. 1st St. with first-floor commercial space, including a restaurant space along the river, is also underway. A hotel and an additional office building are also planned. Tim Michels said in September said the company had found an operating partner, but didn’t announce the company’s name.

The Common Council approved a $7.1 million tax-incremental financing district for the project’s first phase in December 2018, but none of the funds will go towards the developer in the form of a cash incentive.

The Department of City Development had originally negotiated a $1 million cash grant to Michels in exchange for creating 250 jobs, but with that came the legislatively-triggered mandate that the entire project’s construction be subject to a 40 percent hiring requirement for unemployed or underemployed city residents and that 25 percent of the contracts by dollar value be assigned to city-certified, disadvantaged Small Business Enterprises. Michels preferred to forgo the grant.

The remaining $7.1 million TIF will pay for the city’s share of the new riverwalk segment ($3.4 million), environmental cleanup ($400,000), rebuilding W. Becher St. ($2.5 million) and city administrative and contingency costs ($750,000). Because Michels is only directly receiving funds for the riverwalk, only the riverwalk’s design and construction will be subject to the Residents Preference Program and SBE hiring requirements, defined in the agreement as a “best effort.” As a matter of practice, the city funds 70 percent of all riverwalk costs in exchange for round-the-clock public access.

The company has been involved in a number of Milwaukee-area projects including rebuilding the foundation to Milwaukee City Hall, building new wharf walls at the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District headquarters and constructing the foundation for Fiserv Forum. The firm has also been involved in virtually every major road project in the area.

A list of projects on the firm’s website contains a dizzying list of activities across the country, including light rail line construction in Seattle, pipeline construction in Texas and wind farm construction in Alaska.

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