Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Menomonee Valley Building Wins Key Approval

180,469-square-foot building on Canal St. to be built on 'spec,' as a possible warehouse.

By - May 16th, 2022 05:16 pm
841 W. Canal St. rendering. Rendering by Briohn Building Corporation.

841 W. Canal St. rendering. Rendering by Briohn Building Corporation.

The developer of a proposed industrial building in the Menomonee Valley received a key approval Monday afternoon. But there are still no tenants for the proposed 180,469-square-foot building at 841 W. Canal St., though that isn’t expected to delay Westminster Capital‘s plans to construct the structure.

The City Plan Commission unanimously endorsed the proposal’s design. “Looks like a really nice building,” said Chair Stephanie Bloomingdale.

Known as a “spec building,” it would be developed without any confirmed tenants. Such developments have been uncommon in the city proper, where land is more scarce, but have proliferated on freeway corridors in recent years amidst a surge in warehouse demand.

Westminster vice president Matthew Van Wie told the commission that the firm, with design-build partner Briohn Building Corporation, intends to start construction as soon as all the approvals are in place. The two companies have worked together on multiple spec buildings in the Milwaukee area in recent years.

The new building would be located on a 10.54-acre site on Canal St. It could be subdivided or leased to a single tenant.

“Frankly, we haven’t had conversations with any specific prospects at this juncture,” said Van Wie.

But he said any future user would comply with the requirements of the Menomonee Valley development incentive zone. That includes a prohibition on tenants whose primary function is to operate a wholesale or distribution center.

Loading docks would run along the west side of the building, facing the Interstate 94 High Rise Bridge. The east side of the building would include a 197-stall surface parking lot.

But a question remains as to how non-motorists will access the site. The Department of City Development and nonprofit Menomonee Valley Partners would like to see better access to nearby S. 6th St., which is served by two bus routes.

“We’re putting in great efforts to come up with the most safe access point for pedestrians and bike traffic,” said Briohn director of design Christopher Wenzler.

But the layout of the tenant to the east, Lone Star Industries, complicates things. A rail spur runs parallel to W. Canal St. then makes a half-circle on the Lone Star site before terminating at the southern edge of the Westminster site.

The rail spur’s configuration allows Lone Star to load and unload rail cars from its cement silos, but would require any safe bicycle crossing towards S. 6th St. to occur at a 45-degree angle from the north-south orientation of the Westminster site. Wenzler said that results in a planned 20-foot driveway becoming a 120-foot-long pathway onto Lone Star’s land, which the company doesn’t support for safety reasons. The two parties are already working on a land swap that addresses the fact that the southern end of the spur is on Westminster property.

The commission’s approval Monday is final, but it came with the condition that Briohn and Westminster continue to work with the city on an access pathway. “We acknowledge that it is a challenge,” said DCD planner Kristin Connelly.

The Common Council needs to approve the change in zoning related to removing a portion of the site from the zoning district created for We EnergiesValley Power Plant, but not the design of the new building.

Architect Allyson Nemec was the lone commissioner to question the 38-foot-tall facility’s design, particularly what she said was high window arrangement. “It sort of gives the building the appearance of a lower building that has been blown up a bit… is there any possibility of bringing [the windows] down?” she asked.

Wenzler said the windows were lowered on the north side, facing the street. “Often times you don’t want low windows into assembly spaces,” he said of the other facades. “Given the nature of precast [concrete] we could certainly bring more windows down low in the future.”

Site History

The property, owned by We Energies, has been vacant for approximately two decades. It previously was the site of a Milwaukee Tallow Company rendering plant known infamously for its smell.

Allen Edmonds considered building a new factory on the property in 2001, but beyond initial grants for site cleanup, that project never progressed. Former Allen Edmonds owner John Stollenwerk maintained ownership of the site for the next decade and a half.

Lakefront Brewery considered building a new brewery on the site in 2013, but ultimately canceled those plans. Stollenwork then sold to We Energies in 2014.

The site is technically two parcels: a 4.2-acre site at 131 S. 7th St. and a 5.16-acre site addressed as 841 W. Canal St. Two baseball batting cages are about the only markers on the property.

The southern edge of the site borders the South Menomonee Canal, once a key waterway to deliver coal to the power plant. In 2015 it converted to burning natural gas.


Site Photos

One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Menomonee Valley Building Wins Key Approval”

  1. says:

    Pretty, but wrong and a bad precedent. This land has access to rail service and navigable water. The future interests of, and even survival, of Milwaukee dictate that we NOT squander or dilute those assets by letting buildings that don’t use them occupy land they serve.

    Purpose-built buildings and facilities serve specific requirements for heavy soil and/or floor loadings, extra capacity electrical, water, sewer etc.
    Removing a spec building may impede, delay or discourage occupancy by industries having special requirements and rail or water access.

    In equatorial regions, nature will be evicting a lot of people with heat and storms. These people grow and make a LOT of what we need

    These people have to go somewhere.
    Immigration both domestic and foreign could raise Milwaukee’s population by 50% in 25 years (or less if other climate predictions are any indication).

    These people are not coming here to take our jobs. We’ll still need what they grow and make, so If we’re smart we’ll PREPARE for them bringing their jobs, knowledge and skills here.

    That means not squandering industrial, agricultural, shipping, housing and transit opportunities.

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