Graham Kilmer
MKE County

County May Stay in Coggs Building

In May, a report showed the Coggs building could become a money pit.

By - Jul 9th, 2021 05:12 pm
Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center, 1220 W. Vliet St. Photo taken May 19th, 2021 by Jeramey Jannene.

Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center, 1220 W. Vliet St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is indicating that the county may hang onto the Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center after all.

In May, the county’s facilities management division delivered a report to the Board of Supervisors explaining that years of deferred maintenance had left the Coggs building, 1220 W. Vliet St., in such a state of disrepair that the most financially prudent course of action would likely be to sell the building within the next few years.

This study into the future of the Coggs building was happening in the background of a much larger shakeup occurring within county government. That is, the relocation of DHHS staff after the county leaves the Mental Health Complex at the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa.

A new report from DHHS states that department leaders decided late in May that the Coggs building was the best site for the relocation of staff from the mental health complex and the Vel R. Phillips Youth and Family Justice Center.

DHHS and its Division on Aging already have staff in the Coggs building. The state Department of Health Services is also a tenant in the county-owned building.

The department report said that co-locating staff in the Coggs building would place them in a “visitor friendly facility” and support its “No Wrong Door” service approach. This policy, which intends to allow county residents to have access to all DHHS services at any point that they come in contact with the department, is driving the “facility-related decisions,” according to the report.

Co-locating at Coggs will also bring staff closer to the planned Behavioral Health Division (BHD) Mental Health Emergency Center, which the county is developing just north of the building.

The county is partnering with Advocate Aurora Health, Ascension Wisconsin, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Froedtert Health on the project. Once completed, it will provide better service to residents experiencing mental health crises, as approximately 70% of BHD patients come from the 10 zip codes adjacent to the planned location, according to BHD.

However, the cost to stay in the Coggs building is steep. The facility analysis from May indicated the building would need approximately $46 million in repairs and upgrades over the next 20 years. It will cost approximately $4.6 million per floor to upgrade for new tenants. And the building needs between $500,000 and $1 million in accessibility upgrades.

The county’s only paying tenant in the building, the state DHS, covers the building’s annual operating costs through its lease. But its lease is month to month, it has not indicated it wishes to become a long-term tenant and in March it began actively looking for new office space.

“Ultimately, the choice to remain at the Coggs Center was considered the best option as Coggs has been a long-recognized location for providing and receiving community services,” the DHHS report said. “It’s close to the people we serve, and allows for close coordination with the development of the new MHEC with the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership.”

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