Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

City’s Fiserv Subsidy Includes Vel Phillips Plaza Funding, Michigan Street Upgrades

Relocation job target is 780 jobs within four years. Includes rules around work from home policies, bonuses for city residents.

By - Nov 3rd, 2022 05:21 pm
HUB640. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

HUB640. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The city’s portion of a proposed subsidy agreement to bring financial technology firm Fiserv’s headquarters to downtown Milwaukee includes a $7 million cash grant. It also includes $4.6 million for nearby projects, including the development of a plaza honoring a Wisconsin civil rights leader, traffic calming improvements to W. Michigan St. and improvements to Zeidler Union Square.

Fiserv would lease 144,000 square feet of space in the eight-story HUB640 building at the corner of W. Wisconsin Ave. and N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. and invest at least $37 million into the project. In exchange for bringing a minimum of 780 employees to the space, the city would provide the company a $7 million cash grant. The state, via the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, would also contribute a currently undisclosed subsidy.

The move has been several years in the making. In 2017 the Fortune 500 company confirmed it was considering multiple sites in Milwaukee, but never moved. In 2019 it acquired First Data Corporation for $22 billion and set about restructuring or closing several dozen of its offices spread across the country. It now reports approximately 44,000 employees, with major offices in Brookfield, suburban New Jersey, Georgia, Nebraska and Florida and an executive office in New York City. Wisconsin, in 2017, awarded Fiserv up to $10 million in tax credits to maintain its headquarters in the state.

The money for the city’s grant and nearby public improvements would come from increased property tax revenue from the building. Long home to a Boston Store department store and parent company Bon-Ton’s corporate headquarters, the business went bankrupt in 2018. New owner North Wells Capital recently landed a Kohl’s department store for the first floor, a handful of smaller office tenants and now Brookfield-based Fiserv.

The city would create a new tax incremental financing (TIF) district to capture the increased revenue.

The agreement is structured as a developer-financed TIF district. The city would effectively rebate increased property tax revenue from the development over a period of no more than 20 years. Fiserv would be eligible to collect up to $7 million plus 4.5% interest. Unlike a traditional TIF district, the agreement places no risk on the city if the development fails to yield the expected increase in property tax revenue. The existing property tax revenue from the property would continue to flow to the city and other property taxing entities under the proposal, with only the increase diverted.

To earn the full subsidy, Fiserv must eventually employ at least 780 full-time equivalent employees at the site. The agreement sets a four-year ramp-up period that starts at 580 employees in 2024 and grows to the full amount in 2027.

A full-time employee is defined as any employee that works at least 35 hours per week, receives healthcare benefits and is paid more than 150% of the federal minimum wage. Workday occupancy at the facility must be at least 60% of the reported full-time employee count. Similar to the Milwaukee Tool agreement, Fiserv can count employees who live in the city but work from other facilities or at home as part of the total.

Failure to reach the minimum employment threshold would result in a proportional reduction in the subsidy.

All janitorial, security and food service workers must be paid at least $15 per hour in accordance with a 2019 council resolution.

The TIF term sheet says Fiserv is expected to relocate employees working in finance, communications, IT, product development, human resources, benefits and legal functions.

The terms of the deal require a handful of other provisions of Fiserv, including having 40% of the project’s construction work hours performed by unemployed or underemployed city residents. Fiserv is required to maintain an average of three tech apprenticeships as part of the subsidy and provide small business resources and counseling at the Near West Side PartnersConcordia 27 development.

The project plan calls for Fiserv to start construction by June 2023 and substantially complete work by the end of 2024.

The initial project budget calls for all of the costs to be paid off by year 16 of the district. The building, legally three condominiums, is expected to climb in assessed value from $26.4 million to $59.6 million. Included in the district is the 74-unit apartment building at the top of the building. Developed by the Mandel Group nearly two decades ago, North Wells now owns the units.

The district is subject to approval by the Joint Review Board of property tax entities, the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee and the Common Council.

CBRE represented Fiserv and Founders 3 represented North Wells in negotiating Fiserv’s move to the city.

Public Improvements

Fiserv’s relocation, the Kohl’s store and other property improvements are expected to also create enough revenue to advance a number of other nearby projects.

The city would spend $2.5 million to make improvements to make W. Michigan St. between the Milwaukee River and N. 6th St. Fiserv’s front door is expected to face the street. Improvements include traffic calming elements, an all-ages bike facility, new pavement, street trees, landscaping, signals, street lighting and stormwater features.

A total of $750,000 would be allocated to the partial development of Vel Phillips Plaza on the city-owned parking lot a block west of the development. Initially proposed in 2019 as part of a proposal to extend the streetcar system, the plaza would now first move forward without the transit improvement. At the time, the full plaza was estimated to cost $5 million. The city is seeking a private developer to construct a structure on the remainder of the site.

The plaza would be along the former N. 4th St., now named for Vel Phillips. The civil rights trailblazer was the first black woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and the first woman and first African American elected to the Common Council. She was also the first female judge on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court and the first African American judge in Wisconsin. In 1978 Phillips became the first woman elected to the office of Secretary of State, becoming the first African American to ever win a statewide election.

The public improvements also include $1 million for streetscaping improvements around HUB640, executed by North Wells Capital and advanced on a reimbursement basis.

Milwaukee County would receive $100,000 to make improvements to Zeidler Union Square, which is immediately south of HUB640.

Approximately $75,000 would be allocated to improvements to the intersection of N. 6th St. and W. Michigan St. The proposal includes removing high-speed turn lanes and adding traffic calming elements and pavement. The intersection is to see its traffic volume increase with the redevelopment of The Avenue, Milwaukee Tool and Fiserv’s relocation and the proposed Iron District.

Additionally, $175,000 would be placed in a public improvements contingency fund.

A copy of the proposed TIF district authorization document is available on Urban Milwaukee.

HUB640 Redevelopment Photos

2019 Vel Phillips Plaza Renderings

HUB640 Aerial Photos

Former Boston Store

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2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: City’s Fiserv Subsidy Includes Vel Phillips Plaza Funding, Michigan Street Upgrades”

  1. Polaris says:

    How would you like to negotiate THAT agreement?! Sounds like something both sides wanted with all that was asked for and given.

    Great that part of Vel Phillips Plaza could be developed soon. I really hope a private development could be found and announced soon so for the rest of the site so that they could be developed together.

    And, gosh…just being reminded of all her accomplishments, again, is so inspiring. What an impressive person and role model.

  2. says:

    While I understand the need for economic development, I want to know why these private sector, profit-making businesses keep coming to the public trough. When it comes to necessary regulation, they don’t want government involvement in their business. While the city council is considering cutting a million bucks from critical lead abatement, endangering our children, they’re ready to give Fiserv $7 million? Socialism for the capitalists, trickle-down for the masses……

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