Graham Kilmer

Former Fiebrantz Bus Station Could Be Redeveloped

County plans to enter into a development agreement with a potential buyer for former MCTS station.

By - Aug 4th, 2023 01:25 pm
Former Fiebrantz bus station, 1900 W. Fiebrantz Ave. Photo by Sophie Bolich.

Former Fiebrantz bus station, 1900 W. Fiebrantz Ave. Photo by Sophie Bolich.

Milwaukee County has found a buyer interested in purchasing and redeveloping the former Fiebrantz Bus Station.

On July 28, the county posted a public notice that it intended to award a purchase and development option to a company affiliated with three manufacturing firms located in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor.

Tom Daugherty and Lyle Stoflet are the co-founders of custom-furniture company Gear Grove, 4720 N. 27th St., as well as metal and wood contract manufacturer Stratus Industries and shipping container customization and mobile bar firm Containers Up, both of which are listed at 4997 N. 33rd St. A limited liability company, MKE Northside LLC, that lists Daughtery as its registered agent would be given the purchase option for the county property.

Stoflet told Urban Milwaukee they plan to relocate Containers Up to the Fiebrantz facility, which is just west of Rufus King High School and just north of W. Capitol Drive.

The approximately 90,000-square-foot Fiebrantz Station at 1900 W. Fiebrantz Ave. was one of the three stations that the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) operated out of when it took over Milwaukee’s public transit system in 1975, but it shuttered the facility in 2018. It continues to operate the Kinnickinnic and Fond du Lac stations.

According to city assessment records and state corporate records, the business partners do not own the building Gear Grove is publicly listed as occupying. A limited liability firm affiliated with the partners owns the Stratus/Containers Up building.

Fiebrantz Station is made up of two distinct parcels that were being marketed by the county. The larger is a 3.8-acre parcel with a three-story, 90,842-square-foot building that contains the service garage, bus terminal and dispatch office. There is 8,363 square feet of finished office space in the three-story building, according to a 2021 request for proposals. A second 0.25-acre parcel, located across W. Fiebrantz Avenue, was used for employee parking.

Fiebrantz was originally built in 1929 by The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company (TMER&L) and operated as one of several hubs for the city’s streetcars. In 1938, the transportation piece of TMER&L was split off from the utility, creating The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Transport Company and Wisconsin Electric Power Company, a We Energies predecessor. In the 1950s, the transportation company was sold to the Milwaukee & Suburban Transport Corporation, which set about converting the streetcar lines to bus routes. The county acquired the transit system in 1975 to keep it afloat and contracted with the quasi-governmental non-profit Milwaukee Transport Services to operate the system, branded as MCTS.

We Energies continues to own a parcel immediately west of Fiebrantz Station. It serves as the southern end of the 20th Street Corridor, a former interurban line, that is due to receive a bicycle and pedestrian trail.

The county’s 2018 closure of Fiebrantz was a cost-saving measure and part of the countywide effort to reduce the footprint of existing government operations. The county has moved out of millions of square feet of office space and other facilities since 2010.

In a report from 2018, Donna Brown-Martin, director of the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation, noted that the staff and fleet of the transit system had shrunk since the mid-1970s and early-1980s, making the station less critical to daily operations. It was the oldest and smallest of the three county bus depots.

Future development of the property will have to comply with City of Milwaukee zoning and development plans. The 3.8-acre parcel is zoned for industrial use and the smaller parcel is zoned for two-family residential use. The county asked developers proposing a noncompliant use to show support from city officials for a zoning change before an award would be made.

A purchase price was not included in the notice.

Jeramey Jannene contributed to this report.

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3 thoughts on “Former Fiebrantz Bus Station Could Be Redeveloped”

  1. DAGDAG says:

    The building is beautiful. I lived about a block away from it as a kid in the 1960’s. Along side of it were the old interurban tracks which were above ground at the point, but as you went north towards Congress the tracks were below grade to the northern suburbs and routes. It was a major play area & hangout for us (all of the neighborhood kids called it the gully). By then, that building was used by the busses (and company offices) which were electric trolleys with the overhead wires. All night long you could see the sparks from the arms over the top of the bus to where in came into contact with the wires (I think it is called a pantograph)? Rufus King had a sports stadium there at the time, and back then, they built beautiful buildings in that area. Thanx for the flashback!

  2. Marty Ellenbecker says:

    “….staff and fleet of the transit system had shrunk since the mid-1970s and early-1980s, making the station less critical to daily operations.”

    That was then.

    As climate migration increases northerly populations,
    and nature forcibly changes our mobility options,
    the wisest use of this parcel might be a land swap
    for a site more useful for future transit needs. Or,
    save the proceeds of sale or lease for that.

  3. Marty Ellenbecker says:

    To DAGDAG,
    What you referred to is a trolley (actually a trolley pole).
    A pantograph is a spring-loaded flexible frame or arm
    device usually contacting the wire with a
    double-ended ski-like ‘shoe’.

    Milwaukee’s hop trains are streetcars, but not trolleys.
    I rode trolley buses to high school.

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