Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Momentum Builds at Century City

New industrial building would bring more jobs to area while city works on public improvements.

By - Oct 29th, 2021 04:32 pm
Century City I in 2018. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Century City I in 2018. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

For the first time, there is positive momentum at the Century City business park and no storm clouds on the horizon. A private company could build a new industrial building at the property and lease it out to smaller tenants.

Once home to Tower Automotive and more than 5,000 jobs, the city completed site preparation work on the 84-acre business park in 2014. But the city has struggled to attract permanent employers to the area. The lone bright spot for years has been Talgo, a train manufacturer, and its lease of space in a former Tower facility. A 2019 plan to locate a new meat processing plant for Strauss Brands and create up to 500 jobs in the business park ultimately drew opposition from area alderman Khalif Rainey and died, though the alderman initially supported the deal.

The area, unlike the city’s award-winning Menomonee Valley redevelopment, has been beset by claims that it’s too far from the freeway system or surrounded by impoverished neighborhoods and high levels of crime.

But the partners behind a craft brewery appear to have unlocked the area’s potential.

In 2018 an affiliate of Good City Brewing purchased the speculative industrial building, Century City 1, for $867,858 from a partnership of the city and General Capital Group. The bad news was that the company was only willing to pay a price that was less than the cost to build the structure. The good news was that a building, 3945 N. 31st St., that had never had a long-term tenant was now in private hands.

And while the brewery hasn’t brewed a single barrel of beer in the 53,400-square-foot facility, it is now full. Good City Brewing, which has storage and office space in the building, is joined by Craft Beverage WarehousePlanet to Plate‘s Hundred Acre urban farm, Klein-Dickert Glass and B83 Testing and Engineering. Combined there are 20 jobs in the building with a range of functions including assembly, engineering, marketing, warehousing and micro-farming.

“Once the pandemic started to subside in early 2021, the interest level for the space sky-rocketed and the building filled very quickly. There is much more demand for modern industrial space in this part of the city than there is supply,” said Good City CEO Dan Katt, a former real estate developer, in an early October statement that announced the building was full.

Katt secured approval from the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee to exclusively negotiate for one year for the purchase of the 4.7-acre property, 3055 W. Hopkins St., located immediately south of the existing building. The new facility, according to a site plan submitted to the city, would be nearly identical to the first.

“This is exactly the type of flexible uses we envisioned for the Century City 1 building,” said redevelopment authority Benjamin Timm during the RACM meeting on Oct. 21. He said many of the workers came from the surrounding neighborhoods. “I know a number of the businesses in there do outreach to the community.”

“About 500 people come to the Century City business park on a daily basis, there are nine companies there including the Department of Public Works and most of those people live in the city of Milwaukee,” said Timm.

“That’s a statistic that I don’t think is promoted enough,” said board member Bill Schwartz. “That’s something to be proud of.”

Timm said the Menomonee Valley took almost 20 years to get to fill up. “Century City is on track to meet that timeline,” he said. He’s intimately familiar with “the valley;” his wife, Corey Zetts, leads Menomonee Valley Partners.

DPW and PAK Technologies both operate on the west side of Century City. And Talgo and PAK both use the 30th Street corridor rail line that divides the business park. Timm said the Century City companies represent the second biggest user of the rail line behind MolsonCoors.

Timm and RACM assistant executive director Dave Misky are optimistic about the new building.

“We feel confident at RACM and DCD that this is the right use for this particular property,” said Misky, citing a new citywide industrial land use analysis.

“There is high demand for new, 5,000 to 6,000 square foot industrial space with high bays and loading docks,” said Timm of Katt’s report. “Most of the interest has been from local food and beverage producers.”

Good Opportunity Fund I, LLC bought the original building, using the federal Opportunity Zone program as an incentive structure. A similar entity would develop the second building.

A strategic action plan of sequenced public projects to improve the surrounding neighborhood was released in October 2020 and a number of the projects are underway, including the Century City Triangle Neighborhood Park overhaul. A modular housing factory proposed for the area north of the business park also continues to move forward.

Century City 1 Photos

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