Jeramey Jannene

New Milwaukee Office Building Would Be Public-Private Partnership

State pivots from original plan to build its own facility at 27th and Wisconsin.

By - Mar 2nd, 2023 01:31 pm
Milwaukee State Office Building, 819 N. 6th St. Photo by Dave Reid.

Milwaukee State Office Building, 819 N. 6th St. Photo by Dave Reid.

Despite the fact that there has recently been substantial demolition work on the site, the effort to develop a State of Wisconsin office building at N. 27th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. could take another five years. It also now includes a new legal structure.

Faced with repeated rejections, Governor Tony Evers didn’t include funding for the new building in his 2023-2025 capital budget proposal released Tuesday. The Wisconsin Department of Administration will instead pursue a public-private partnership that would see the state lease space in a new building. The state hopes to begin soliciting private developers later this year.

The change, announced Wednesday, comes as the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature has twice stripped bonding authority to build the new complex. Last publicly estimated in 2021 to cost $163.6 million, it was to include a 283,00-square-foot office building and a 1,000-space parking structure.

Initially started by Governor Scott Walker in 2018, the state has worked with local officials to pursue a replacement for the nine-story Milwaukee State Office Building at 819 N. 6th St. The 163,400-square-foot building was constructed in 1963 and has substantial deferred maintenance. The proposal called for other state agencies that lease office space in Milwaukee to consolidate their operations into the new, state-owned building. The state would sell the downtown building as part of the plan.

Despite blocking funding to construct the new building, in 2021 the Legislature did approve $4 million in bonding to purchase the full-block site assembled by the nonprofit Near West Side Partners organization and begin demolition.

Now as part of its updated Vision 2030 plan, the Department of Administration is proposing to issue a request for proposals in late 2023 or early 2024 for a developer to construct a new office building and lease it to the state. It’s part of a broader strategy that would also see the state vacate and sale 28% of its Madison office space and avoid an estimated $541 million in maintenance costs.

“Vision 2030 is a win-win for taxpayers and state workers,” said Department of Administration Secretary-designee Kathy Blumenfeld in a press release. “It fosters a flexible, mobile work environment that will support our state workforce, optimizes our building and energy footprint, and improves access for the public while delivering taxpayer savings. We’re very proud to build on the successes of Vision 2030 to deliver a future-facing plan that will help us modernize where and how work gets done at the State level and provide more opportunities to develop and grow our Wisconsin workforce talent across the state.”

The leasing strategy is similar to one used a decade ago to develop a new home for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, across N. 27th St. from the potential site of the new Milwaukee building.

“This move would eliminate the need for approximately $95.7 million in renovations for the existing building,” said the administration of the Milwaukee property. Walker, in 2018, said he expected a buyer to demolish the building and leverage the site’s proximity to Fiserv Forum, the convention center and county courthouse.

In a statement issued after this article was first published, Near West Side Partners praised the state advancing the project.

“Near West Side Partners looks forward to continued collaboration with the State of Wisconsin as it seeks to make additional investments on State-owned property in Milwaukee’s Near West Side. We know the State, its employees and those it serves will benefit greatly from locating at this intersection of two critical corridors in Milwaukee,” said acting NWSP executive director Lindsey St. Arnold Bell. “This development will bring jobs, continued investment and further economic development to our community. Collaboration is the foundation on which Near West Side Partners has been built, and we applaud the State’s commitment to leveraging public/private partnerships to advance this catalytic investment.”

The new office building would not likely not need to be as large as last proposed in 2021. A number of potential tenant agencies have already found new homes.

The Department of Health Services relocated its enrollment services office from the county-owned Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center, 1220 W. Vliet St., to a redeveloped warehouse at 6101-6105 N. 64th St.

Two state-owned buildings, 5316 W. State St. and 5504 W. State St., long leased to Beyond Vision, a career services agency for those who are blind, are now vacant as a result of the nonprofit’s consolidation into a former big box store on S. 108th St. in West Allis. The Vision 2030 plan says the state has received offers for the properties

The Department of Corrections is opening an office at 1311 N. 6th St.

A new crime lab, formally the Center for Forensic Science and Protective Medicine, is being developed on the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center campus in Wauwatosa. It replaces the existing facility at 1578 S. 11th St. and will also include county offices, including the Medical Examiner’s office.

The Office of the State Public Defender would not move from the downtown building to the west side. The state intends to lease space for the agency near the courthouse.

The original, conceptual plan for the 27th and Wisconsin site was a 200,000-square-foot office building with a 680-space parking structure.

2022 Demolition Photos

2020 Site Photos

2020 Site Plans

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us