Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Marcus Scraps Downtown Tower and Movie Theaters

Riverfront site now for sale, as Marcus Corp. seeks new plans for its headquarters.

By - Mar 14th, 2023 05:18 pm
Edison Place. Rendering by InPlace Design.

Edison Place. Rendering by InPlace Design.

A proposal to develop a 20-story, mixed-use tower and eight-screen movie theater complex in downtown Milwaukee is dead.

Marcus Corp. is selling the 1.23-acre riverfront development site at 1301-1357 N. Edison St. It hired The Barry Company to market the property.

“This is one of the most appealing development properties available in Milwaukee, with an outstanding location and extensive Milwaukee River frontage. We are confident that there will be very strong interest in this site,” said Barry Company president James T. Barry III in a press release.

The asking price is $7 million. The property sits between E. Knapp St. and E. Cherry St., just west of N. Water St.

Marcus envisioned using the property as part of a larger, 2.25-acre development site. The Edison Place development was to include two additional properties.

The City of Milwaukee would have vacated the one-block segment of N. Edison St., conveying the underlying land to the firm. Milwaukee County already sold a 23,268-square-foot lot between N. Edison St. and N. Water St. to Marcus, with the company configuring it as a public green space for the time being.

In 2015, Marcus purchased the riverfront site, long used as a parking lot, for $3.1 million. In 2018, it paid the county $50,000 for the smaller lot, 1301 N. Water St.

A future developer would likely be able to assemble the street and former county lot into the same larger development site. Barry’s listing sheet only references the larger parking lot.

The listing was announced just a week after it was revealed that Marcus would need to move its headquarters from the 100 East office building. The office tower is to be redeveloped into an apartment building following a foreclosure suit. The publicly-traded company is one of the last remaining tenants.

Marcus was expected to be an anchor tenant in the planned, 20-story tower, but was virtually certain to be unable to construct a new building in time to vacate its current home. More likely the company will now have to move to leased space in an existing office building.

The Edison Place plan called for a Marcus Theatres eight-screen cinema, restaurants, health club, five stories of office space, apartments or condominiums, a six-level parking structure and riverwalk extension. But in the years since the plan was developed, the movie theater business significantly declined during the pandemic and has yet to recover as streaming entertainment has grown.

Maryland-based InPlace Design was the architect behind the 780,000-square-foot Edison Place proposal, first revealed in 2016. Marcus also had a 2008 plan for the site, but that proposal was dropped in 2014. Hammes Company considered developing its office complex at the site before ultimately developing its headquarters across N. Water St.

In addition to theaters, Marcus Corp. owns a number of hotels through its Marcus Hotels & Resorts brand. It also owns the Marcus Restaurant Group. At the close of trading Tuesday the company had a market capitalization of $487 million.

Marcus was to lease the parking lot for use as a temporary bar in 2021, but that plan was ultimately dropped. In 2022, The Tap Yard opened across the river at Schlitz Park.

The site became a redevelopment target approximately two decades ago following the removal of the Park East Freeway, which separated it from the rest of Downtown.

The property is listed with brokers David Barry and Kurt Van Dyke.

Photos and Renderings

4 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Marcus Scraps Downtown Tower and Movie Theaters”

  1. Polaris says:

    Not surprising, Marcus always emphasized that they had no short term plans for this site. I always felt the Edison Place rendering was made to appease those (of us) who hoped for something more,

  2. DanRyan86 says:

    Ya know there really should be some sort of penalty for just sitting on undeveloped land or a surface lot. Like why are we not taxing this undeveloped land in such a prime location to the point of penalty so that it incentivizes someone to develop on it rather than saaaaaaay sit on it for 6 years and then try and sell it for double the price? It’s not like the city couldn’t use the money and it would help with all the surface lots everywhere downtown, seriously look at a satellite shot of downtown these lots are everywhere, just sitting, owned by someone planning on not doing anything with it except hoard it until the time is right to make it that much more expensive for the next person to do anything with it.

  3. DAGDAG says:

    Well, at least MARCUS got off the pot and made a decision as to what to do with its plans. It is another one of those companies that talks big (for the free press I would say) and does nothing for what was it…8 years now? I recently mentioned their indecision in another posting, and, as DanRyan86 says, the prime piece of real estate is really an eyesore that is just sitting there. Is this how development works in Milwaukee now? I use the COUTURE as another example. 12-15 years before there is movement…or should I say, stagnate…development?

  4. Polaris says:

    @DanRyan86: Truth! The only difference between Marcus holding this property hostage and other surface/parking lots is that some of those lots are owned by families or small entities. We would hope to expect more from Marcus and other companies but have learned that only leads to disappointment.

    Marcus did this with another property prior to this but, for the life of me, I can’t remember where that was. Promises of a downtown cinema always excite Milwaukeans. Not gonna happen anymore, even moreso that 10 and 20 years ago.

    Speaking of…what are the Bucks waiting for? I’m growing weary of hearing all the hype and seeing all the pretty renderings for the Deer District, only to visit and see all these remaining empty lots. Of course, there has been some movement with The Trade Hotel and now (to my dismay) the proposed FPC Live concert venues, but seriously. COVID aside, there are hundreds of new apartments going up in 8-10 downtown developments and the Bucks haven’t mustered the capacity to attract one.

    The Bucks are masters and spending other people’s money. Even the new $50M-$100M health equity initiative they recently announced with Froedtert-MCW is about fundraising. A worthy goal, of course, but the Bucks get a heck of a lot of publicity for doing this. Frankly, $50 million over the proposed 20-year period is only $2.5 million annually. Why don’t the billionaire Bucks owners simply donate that to the initiative? Answer: OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY.

    They should put a little skin in the game and actually SELF-DEVELOP parts of the Deer District. What they are doing is trying to attract developers to develop property they own–a gift from the City. FiveFifty Ultra Lofts is owned by Royal Capital Group. The owner of The Trade Hotel is NCG Hospitality. The Bucks own the land. Everybody else does the work and puts up the money. They even want a company to give them $4M a year for the naming rights to the plaza outside Fiserv Forum. Yeah, first, get rid of the Bradley Center dust bowl next door and some of the other empty lots.

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