Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

Rite-Hite Completes Move to City

Moving from Brown Deer to Walker's Point. Plus: A recap of the week's real estate news.

By - Mar 12th, 2023 04:52 pm
Rite-Hite headquarters. Photo courtesy of Rite-Hite.

Rite-Hite headquarters. Photo courtesy of Rite-Hite.

Warehouse equipment company Rite-Hite is officially a Milwaukee company.

This week, the company completed the move to its new headquarters in the Reed Street Yards business park at the north end of Walker’s Point.

The development, revealed in 2019, replaced the company’s suburban Brown Deer headquarters and allowed for the consolidation of other area offices. It’s now home to 300 employees.

Rite-Hite reports 230 employees moved into the four-story, 159,308-square-foot office building that overlooks the downtown skyline, Harley-Davidson Museum and South Menomonee Canal. Referred to as the North Building or HQ North, it sports a signature curved-glass facade.

The research and development-focused HQ South building opened last July on the south side of W. Freshwater Way and now houses 70 employees. It’s a two-story, 108,552-square-foot building, with an attached 450-stall parking structure to the west.

“With the completion of the North building, all remaining corporate employees who were working remotely since the pandemic have a place to return,” said Sara Everts, director of corporate marketing and communications, in a statement.

Rite-Hite manufactures loading dock equipment, industrial doors, safety barriers, industrial fans and other products for warehouse operators. According to a 2017 report, the company had 220 employees in Brown Deer. The company currently reports having more than 2,500 employees worldwide.

“It has been an intense but fulfilling undertaking for all of us and we are so grateful for the expertise and strong partnership we have with our architect and general contractor,” said Everts. “The entire RiteHite organization has followed the project’s progression and we are thrilled to be working at this beautiful campus and to be part of the vibrant neighborhood and city.”

Eppstein Uhen Architects led the complex’s design. CD Smith led the general contracting. The project was originally expected to be completed in early 2022.

The office building includes an 8,500-square-foot customer experience center to showcase company products. The south building includes a “live dock” area that is paired with a technical training center.

“The Technical Training Center, Customer Experience Center and live dock are like no other facilities in our industry,” said Everts. “We are very excited to bring them to life and we know our customers and employees are going to get a lot of value from their time here.”

The south building’s roof is covered with 900 solar panels, expected to generate about 500,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. The building also includes fabric ductwork and an under-floor air dispersion system from Rite-Hite’s Iowa-based DuctSox subsidiary. The company’s service arm, Arbon Equipment Corporation, also has its regional office in the building.

An affiliate of Rite-Hite purchased the 9.4-acre site from General Capital Group for $12 million.

A skywalk spans W. Freshwater Way and provides a climate-controlled connection between the buildings. A pre-existing riverwalk segment, part of the Hank Aaron State Trail, lines the northern edge of the site.

Reed Street Yards, the formerly water-focused business park only attracted a single office tenant prior to Rite-Hite’s announcement. Zurn, then a subsidiary of Rexnord, relocated from Pennsylvania to a three-story office building in the business park. The Yards apartment building was completed in 2020 on the district’s eastern edge along S. 2nd St. A substantial amount of other development, including the Global Water Center, has taken place just outside the borders of the business park.

Rite-Hite didn’t mention the Reed Street Yards name in its press release announcing the project’s completion. It instead described the site as part of the 5th Ward. The historically-accurate reference gained popularity two decades ago as a means to market condominiums in Walker’s Point. Reed Street Yards is a reference to the former name for S. 2nd St. and the property’s former use as a rail yard and trucking facility.

In late 2019 the Common Council approved a $4 million amendment to the tax incremental financing district used to create the business park to fund the relocation of two Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District sewers that cross the business park, but don’t directly serve the 15-acre site. The move was billed as clearing an impediment to development and city officials said it would be required whether the then-rumored Rite Hite relocation occurred or not.

In 2017, Rite-Hite contested a 6.5-acre eminent domain claim from the Village of Brown Deer on its suburban headquarters. In 2020, it publicly announced the move.

“The new headquarters will afford us the space and resources to expand our operations, attract and retain talent, and continue to support our customers in a first class manner,” said then-Rite-Hite Holding Corporation CEO Paul Maly. Micaela Bomhack (née White) is now the CEO of the family-owned company. Michael White is the chairman of the company.

The company uses an address of 195 S. Rite-Hite Way, a short, private street extending from W. Freshwater Way, for the complex.

2022 Aerial Photos

June 2022 Construction Photos


Pre-Construction Site Photos

Weekly Recap

City Has $16 Million Plan For Downtown Plaza

A planned downtown park would honor late civil rights pioneer Vel Phillips.

First introduced in 2019, the proposal calls for a large plaza to be built atop what is currently a city-owned parking lot at W. Wisconsin Ave. and N. Vel R. Phillips Ave.

And Mayor Cavalier Johnson‘s administration believes it now has the funding to advance the project, but at a much greater cost than initially thought.

“The City of Milwaukee is prepared to move forward on the Vel R. Phillips Plaza that will add to the positive momentum taking place in the Westown neighborhood, which is witnessing a string of exciting development, investment, and activity,” said Johnson in introducing a funding plan for the idea. “I am a strong supporter of gathering places and plazas. From economic development benefits and expanded public transit connections, to cultural and educational opportunities that are accessible for all, gathering places enhance the quality of life in our communities. As the nation recognizes and celebrates Women’s History Month, I am looking forward to this plaza honoring the legacy, activism, and public service of Vel R. Phillips, as well as providing a dynamic and active gathering place for the community to utilize and enjoy for years to come.”

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Expanded Convention Center Will Be Named For Financial Firm Baird

Forget the Wisconsin Center. Milwaukee’s convention center will now be known as the Baird Center.

Robert W. Baird and Co. is purchasing the naming rights for the convention center and its $456 million expansion. The Milwaukee-based company operates an independent investment bank and offers financial services to a wide variety of clients. It reports more than $376 billion in assets under management and 5,000 employees across the globe, with its headquarters located in the U.S. Bank Center.

The Wisconsin Center District (WCD) board endorsed the 15-year naming rights agreement Friday after meeting in closed session for more than an hour. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The name change will go into effect as the expansion opens in May 2024, just in time for the Republican National Convention.

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See Inside The Couture’s Rise

The Couture is climbing and the first residents could move into the lower half of the 44-story luxury apartment tower later this year.

Developer Rick Barrett and general contractor J.H. Findorff & Son showed off progress on the $190 million building Thursday morning.

Concrete pouring on the building, 909 E. Michigan St., has reached the fifth floor, and should now progress at about one floor per week until the building tops out this fall at approximately 520 feet tall.

“I think we’re in a rhythm,” said Barrett of the visible progress. “Things are all going to come together quickly. I think you will be shocked at how fast what you’re seeing right now versus what you’re going to see at the end of the summer.”

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100 East Tower Could Become Apartments

The 35-story 100 East office tower, Wisconsin’s third tallest building, would be converted to apartments under a plan from Klein Development and Johnny Vassallo.

The building is currently in foreclosure as its occupancy rate has dropped steadily in recent years. Court records indicate a sale could be approved in April and completed in May.

An affiliate of California-based Hertz purchased the property, 100 E. Wisconsin Ave., and a skywalk-connected parking structure for $78 million in 2016. Located along the river at the intersection of E. Wisconsin Ave. and N. Water St, it was once of the city’s most valuable properties. But the building’s occupancy rate is now below 50%.

In 2021, Friedman Real Estate Management took over management of the 35-story, 435,557-square-foot building and Michael Polsky was appointed the receiver at the request of lender Wilmington Trust.

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‘Living Breakwater’ Would Protect Harbor

The industrial-style breakwater that protects Milwaukee’s harbor from waves and storm surges could soon look much more appealing. It would also become an environmentally-friendly habitat for wildlife and better protect the city’s waterfront.

The nonprofit Milwaukee Harbor District, in partnership with the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, received a $455,800 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to design a “living breakwater system.” The new system, to be constructed behind the existing masonry breakwater, would be a 50-to-150-foot-wide coastal wetland zone and could include a wave buffer pool, cobbled beaches, stone fish habitats, sand ridges, low wetlands and other environmental features. It would be designed to be self-sustaining.

“This opportunity presents a generational opportunity to protect the economic assets of our community but also be a safe harbor for the plants, birds, fish and animals of our Inner Harbor,” said Harbor District CEO Tia Torhorst in a press release announcing the grant.

The initial funding will be used to develop preliminary designs and assess the current condition of the breakwater. Additional funding would need to be secured to construct the planned, half-mile-long development.

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Proposed Downtown Hotel Design Revised

The design of a proposed eight-story Tempo by Hilton Milwaukee hotel has been refined to emphasize its verticality, better integrate its rooftop deck and create a better pedestrian experience.

The changes come after the Historic Preservation Commission pushed back on the initial design. The commission has oversight of the new building because the parking lot is part of the historically-protected former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel complex.

“My understanding is that the architect tried to make this kind of a background building and respond to the 1960s Journal building,” said commission staffer Tim Askin in January. He said the site, across from Pere Marquette Park, is too visible for that.

“The entrance is not quite there. It needs grandeur,” said Askin. He provided guidance on a range of items including facade materials, window design and the height of the first floor. Askin and the commission endorsed the overall size of the building, but sent the design back to the development team to be adjusted.

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Republicans Concerned About Housing Shortage, Local Zoning Rules

This week, Stevens Point residents attended a city council meeting to fight against a neighbor’s efforts to build an extension to their garage so their ailing in-laws have a place to move in.

Earlier this year, Madison residents mounted a campaign against the city’s efforts to change zoning rules to allow higher density apartments near future stops on the soon-to-be-built Bus Rapid Transit line. Another effort in Madison would  stop a developer’s proposal for a new apartment complex, by attempting to get a historical landmark designation for a former credit union building because former President Harry Truman dedicated the structure in 1950.

In Wauwatosa, local opposition led to the death of a proposed high rise apartment tower that would have included more than 300 units. Instead, the developer plans to build a car wash at the intersection.

This local opposition to housing projects comes even as nearly all corners of the state face a shortage of affordable housing. On Tuesday, the housing committees of the state Assembly and Senate met for an informational hearing on the problem and potential solutions.

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Pro-Ballpark Funding Coalition Launched

The Milwaukee Brewers and Governor Tony Evers have a new ally in their quest to allocate $290 million of the state’s budget surplus to fund improvements to American Family Field.

The Home Crew Coalition was launched Wednesday. Led by restauranteur and coalition chair Omar Shaikh, the organization supports a “solution to keep Major League Baseball in Wisconsin for the next generation.”

Other coalition members include VISIT Milwaukee CEO Peggy Williams-Smith, former Republican Party leader and retired Bradley Foundation CEO Michael Grebe, North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters political director Andrew Disch, NAIOP Wisconsin leader Jim Villa, Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin head Tracy Johnson, former Republican legislator and collegiate summer league team owner Dan Kapanke, Prevea Health CEO Ashok Rai and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers CEO Rob Zerjav.

“The Milwaukee Brewers are a point of pride for Wisconsin and it’s important that we do what is needed to ensure Major League Baseball is preserved in our state for the next generation,” said Shaikh in a press release. “Generating thousands of jobs and billions in direct spending, it’s important that we recognize the massive economic impact the team and the ballpark have on our state. Through our collective efforts, the Home Crew Coalition aims to deliver that message statewide and ensure the Brewers can call American Family Field their home for years to come.”

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GoGeddit Marketing Moves To Walker’s Point

GoGeddit Marketing and Media (GGMM) is writing the next chapter in its story. That includes changing its name, focusing on its strongest offerings and moving to a new home.

The business started in 2011 as a daily deals website before pivoting to become a marketing agency and, ultimately, making its mark as a local leader in podcast production.

Led by Richie Burke, GGMM is relocating to Walker’s Point from St. Francis. Burke said it’s about “getting to the next level and providing a better experience for our clients.”

GoGeddit will get a new name in April, and the agency’s flagship podcast, The GoGedders Podcast, will also be rebranded. The renaming is part of a bigger move to emphasize the company’s focus on audio and video production and storytelling.

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Crowley Signs $9.5 Million in Affordable Housing Contracts

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley signed contracts Tuesday providing $9.5 million for four affordable housing projects in suburban communities.

The funds will go towards projects in Brown Deer, Wauwatosa and South Milwaukee. The county executive and the county’s Housing Division made it a goal in 2022 to diversify the affordable housing available in metro Milwaukee by backing developments in communities that have historically been resistant to such projects.

“This is another huge step forward for the county, particularly in our work as we continue to increase the amount of safe and affordable housing in all neighborhoods throughout the county,” Crowley said.

Funding for the projects comes out of the county’s $185 million allocation of Affordable Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. In 2022, the county set aside $15 million in ARPA funding to support affordable suburban housing projects. The county worked with the Community Development Alliance to find projects to back and in January awarded funding to the first four projects Crowley signed off on Tuesday.

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Brady Street Hotel Gains First City Approval

A new hotel proposed for Milwaukee’s Lower East Side received its first public approval Monday afternoon.

The City Plan Commission unanimously endorsed a zoning change to enable the 11-story, 130-room hotel’s development. The new building would be the only hotel on the entire East Side, with the nearest competing operation located approximately a mile south.

As first reported in October by Urban Milwaukee, the hotel would rise on a triangular lot located at the intersection of E. Brady St., N. Farwell Ave. and N. Cambridge Ave. It would include a first-floor restaurant and bar and a top-floor event space.

“It’s an incredible site. We love Brady Street. We love the neighborhood,” said Klein Development president Michael Klein to the plan commission Monday.

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HUB640 Owner Buys Parking Structure For Fiserv

Fiserv’s proposed move from Brookfield to Downtown has resulted in a Westown parking structure changing hands.

North Wells Capital purchased the eight-level, 712-space structure at 615 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. for $6.25 million according to state real estate transfer records posted Friday.

The structure is connected by a third-floor skywalk over N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. to the HUB640 office building, which will soon be anchored by financial technology services company Fiserv’s corporate headquarters. Fiserv is to house 780 workers at the building, including 250 newly-created jobs. The city is providing a $7 million tax incremental financing subsidy if the job target is reached and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is providing $7 million in income tax credits if the company reaches a series of job targets, including 980 employees in Wisconsin.

It was revealed during the city subsidy approval process that Chicago-based North Wells was pursuing the purchase of the parking structure from an affiliate of Zilber Property Group. Fiserv is expected to spend $37 million on its office buildout, which includes new, private elevators and a host of other improvements. The company will lease the third, fourth and fifth floors of the eight-story building. A handful of other office tenants are located in the building.

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State Home Prices Rose 49% in Five Years

A new study find that home prices rose by a whopping 49.4% in Wisconsin over the past five years.

Yet that was surpassed by 28 states, which saw even larger hike, led by Idaho with a 91.9% increase in five years, followed by Montana, at 79.4%.

The states with lowest increase in house prices over this period were North Dakota (up 22.7%) and Louisiana (up 23.6%).

Wisconsin’s hike in home prices was slightly below that of the median states, Nebraska (50.8% increase) and Michigan (53.7%) over this period.

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County Seeks Contractors for New Human Services Building

Milwaukee County is looking for contractors to build its new $42 million human services building in the King Park neighborhood.

The new building would house the county’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as well as Friedens Food Pantries, replacing the Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center at 1220 W. Vliet St. Plans call for a four-story, 60,000-square-foot building to be constructed on the northern end of the Coggs site, at 1230 W. Cherry St. between N. 12th St. and N. 13th St.

The project includes approximately $32 million in federal pandemic funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, which must be allocated by 2024 and spent down by 2026. Construction on the new building is expected to begin in 2024 and be open for use by 2025.

The current plans and designs for the new building would require the county to demolish the Coggs building to create space for parking. The county anticipates it will need approximately 250 parking spaces for the new facility.

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