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Downtown condo sales and prices on the rise
July 25, 2014 12:17 PM
The number of downtown Milwaukee condominium sales increased by 15 percent to 154 during the first half of the year compared to the first half of 2013, when 134 downtown condos were sold, according to the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors.

That comes after downtown condo sales were up 13 percent in 2013, compared to 2012. Last year was the third year of sales gains after the downtown condo market collapsed from 2008 to 2010.

Average sale prices for downtown Milwaukee condos are up 7 percent for the first half of this year, to $314,316, compared to the first six months of 2013, but they are still far from 2007's first half average of $417,453 when the market was at its peak, according to the GMAR.

Average sales prices for downtown condos were basically flat (down 0.4 percent) between 2012 ($301,012) and 2013 ($299,671) but that was an improvement after five years of price decreases that ranged from 1 percent (in 2012 and 2009) to 20 percent (in 2008).

There has been little new condo development in downtown Milwaukee in recent years and almost all new housing developments under construction or planned downtown are apartment projects.

"With no supply being added to the downtown condo market, the law of supply and demand would dictate (additional) price increases in the future," GMAR President Mike Ruzicka said.

The length of time that downtown condo units were on the market was down 42 percent in 2013, compared to 2012, and was down 39 percent in the first half of 2014, compared to the first half of 2013.

"Decreasing days on the market means downtown condos are moving quickly," Ruzicka said.

GMAR will host a downtown condo open house event on Saturday, Aug. 2, from noon to 4 p.m. The list of the condos on the tour can be found at www.GMAR.com.

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City could help local group redevelop Shops of Grand Avenue
July 25, 2014 12:20 PM
City of Milwaukee officials are considering plans to help a local group of civic and business leaders that plans to purchase and redevelop the Shops of Grand Avenue mall in downtown Milwaukee.

Ald. Robert Bauman, who represents the downtown area, this week introduced legislation that would “assist in the financing, acquisition, repurposing and redevelopment” of the mall.

The city has no plans to purchase the mall, but it could provide a loan guarantee or issue bonds backed by the city on behalf of the local group, known as WAM DC LLC (Wisconsin Avenue Milwaukee Development Corp.), said Richard “Rocky” Marcoux, commissioner of the Department of City Development.

WAM DC LLC is in negotiations to purchase the mall from its owner, a subsidiary of Bank of America investors. If it acquires the property, WAM DC plans to repurose the mall into a mix of uses that could include retail space, incubator office space, residences and an educational component.

“We believe the WAM DC group (is working on) a plan that we can back,” said Marcoux. “We believe WAM DC has some very good ideas about how to repurpose the mall. We want to be supportive of the WAM DC concept. We believe this will be successful. The city is positioning itself to make it clear that it supports WAM DC’s efforts.”

City officials have said for years that the struggling mall needs to be repurposed and incorporate different uses. WAM DC could finally make that happen.

“We believe this is an opportunity that should not be missed,” Marcoux said.

The city has already provided a significant amount of tax incremental financing for the mall and adjacent properties and does not intend to increase that amount, Marcoux said. The city wants to get the TIF funds that have been provided for the mall paid off, he said.

In addition, city officials want to see revitalization of West Wisconsin Avenue.

“The city’s main objective here is to restore viable retail on Wisconsin Avenue and to make the best possible use of the buildings between Fourth Street and the (Milwaukee) River,” Marcoux said.

WAM DC was created by a group of volunteers working to come up with a plan to revitalize West Wisconsin Avenue. The group's plans to redevelop the Shops of Grand Avenue are central to that effort. The group includes Stephen Chernof of Godfrey & Kahn, developer Gary Grunau, Mandel Group Inc. chief operating officer Robert Monnat, Greater Milwaukee Committee President Julia Taylor, Marianne Lubar, Kahler Slater CEO George Meyer and developer Ron Sanfilippo.

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Van Alstine to lead Cardinal Stritch athletics department
July 25, 2014 12:24 PM
Cardinal Stritch University, based in Fox Point, has appointed Tim Van Alstine, Ph.D., director of athletics, effective Aug. 1.

Van Alstine has more than 25 years of experience in intercollegiate athletics as a student-athlete, coach and administrator. He most recently was assistant vice president and director of athletics for Western Illinois University’s athletic department. The university’s sports teams compete in NCAA Division I.

Throughout Van Alstine’s 12 year-run overseeing Western Illinois University athletics, the school won 28 conference championships and three Conference Commissioner’s Cups. Additionally, university coaches garnered 28 “Coach of the Year” awards during his tenure.

Prior to Van Alstine’s career at Western Illinois University, he served as senior associate athletics director for external affairs at Ohio University, director of ticket operations at the UW-Madison, and director of athletic services at the University of Maine.

“Dr. Van Alstine’s experience and expertise made him an ideal choice for the position,” said Cardinal Stritch University’s president, James Loftus, Ph.D. “I am highly confidence that he will be a bold and thoughtful leader for our university, helping our student-athletes to excel both on and off the court or field.”

Van Alstine is taking over for Pat Clemens, who is retiring after 17 years at Cardinal Stritch University. At the head of the athletics department, Van Alstine will oversee the school’s 18 men’s and women’s teams, which are part of Division II of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. He will also be responsible for oversight of the school’s intramural leagues and spirit squad.

“I am truly excited to join the Cardinal Stritch University community and lead its athletics department,” he said. “I am very impressed by the passion and leadership of Dr. Loftus, the administrative team, and the coaches, and the overall commitment to student and student-athlete success. It will be an honor and a privilege to follow the successes Pat Clemens has already secured. There is clearly a wonderful opportunity to continue to build on the tradition of both academic and athletic success at Cardinal Stritch University.”

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Luxury apartment tower planned at Kilbourn and Van Buren
July 25, 2014 12:28 PM
Chicago-based Carroll Properties Inc. plans to build a 32- to 33-story luxury apartment building, with up to 270 units, at a site northeast of Van Buren Street and Kilbourn Avenue in downtown Milwaukee.

The site was formerly occupied by an Edwardo’s restaurant and is where New Land Enterprises LLP and later developers Tim Gokhman and Ann Shuk had planned to build a high rise apartment development called Bookends. But the Bookends project never moved forward.

Carroll Properties has a contract to purchase the site from Bookends Group LLC, said Bob King, president of Carroll Properties. That deal is expected to close by the end of the year, he said.

Carroll Properties hopes to break ground in the first quarter of 2015 on its planned apartment tower for the site. It would take 12 to 18 months to build, King said.

The site is zoned for a 244-unit apartment development, so Carroll Properties will need a zoning amendment to build 270 units there, King said. So far city officials have been receptive to the plans, he said.

“The city officials couldn’t be more nice, receptive and helpful, which we find refreshing,” King said. Carroll Properties is not seeking a subsidy for the project, he said.

Chicago-based FitzGerald Associates is the architect for the project.

The building will have numerous high end amenities, King said, including: bike storage, a dog wash, a business center, a business incubator, a barber and beauty salon, a theater, a fitness center, a sport court for basketball and volleyball (and other sports and activities), a computer gaming center and a shared patio on one of the upper floors.

“Everything you can think of are trying to put into this building,” King said. “We’re going to try to give, in effect, hotel-type convenience and amenities to our tenants.”

The building will also have about 10,000 square feet of commercial space for retail tenants.

“I can’t image why this would not be a good site for retail traffic,” King said.

For tenants, the building will provide expansive views of Lake Michigan and downtown Milwaukee.

“I think the views on a 360-degree basis will be spectacular,” King said.

The location is a “walk to everything site,” close to major downtown amenities, employers and other residences, he said.

The city’s apartment market has been robust recently, supporting numerous other recent new apartment developments.

“We think the apartment market is strong in Milwaukee, as it is in the rest of the country,” King said.

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Sensient earnings down on restructuring charges
July 25, 2014 12:30 PM
Milwaukee-based Sensient Technologies Corp. reported second quarter net earnings of $29.1 million, or 59 cents per share, down from $32.3 million, or 65 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2013.

Revenue was $374.7 million, down from $378.8 million in the same period a year ago.

The flavorings, flavors and colors manufacturer put a restructuring plan into place at the beginning of 2013 to eliminate underperforming operations, consolidate manufacturing facilities and improve internal efficiencies. This resulted in $13 million of pre-tax restructuring and other costs in the second quarter.

Sensient’s board of directors also recently approved amending its articles of incorporation, by laws and corporate governance guidelines to include a majority voting standard in uncontested elections of directors. This replaces the company’s plurality voting standard and director resignation policy. Shareholders will vote on the amendments at the 2015 annual meeting.

“I am very pleased with the strong results reported by the company and each of the operating groups in the second quarter,” said Paul Manning, president and chief executive officer. ”Each of the Groups reported local currency operating profit growth of over five percent and significant margin improvement. We continue to see progress in the Flavors & Fragrances Group and we are optimistic about future opportunities across all of our businesses.”

The company avoided a board takeover attempt by Connecticut hedge fund FrontFour Capital Group LLC at its shareholder meeting in April.

Since FrontFour’s announcement of the intent to elect its own directors, the color, flavor and fragrance manufacturer has created a new independent lead director position, changed its long-term equity incentive compensation plan and announced the restructuring.

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State cranberry crop up 25 percent
July 25, 2014 12:32 PM
Wisconsin cranberry growers set another record in 2013, producing just over 6 million barrels of cranberries, which accounted for 67 percent of the country’s cranberries.

That’s an increase of 25 percent from 2012, when the state produced 4.8 million barrels, according to the Office of the Governor. In 2013, Wisconsin produced more than three times the cranberries of Massachusetts, the next highest producer.

Cherry and apple production has also picked up from 2012, when the weather was not ideal for high production.

In 2013, 12.3 million pounds of tart cherries were harvested, up from 1.7 million pounds in 2012. That puts Wisconsin in fourth nationwide for tart cherry production.

The state harvested 41.7 million pounds of apples in 2013, up from 23.7 million in 2012.

“I drink cranberry juice every day, because of the exceptional health benefits, great taste, and of course, to support our title as the top cranberry producer in the nation,” said Gov. Scott Walker. “I commend all of our farmers for their efforts, hard work, and determination, particularly those who have faced extreme weather conditions these past few years.”

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Milwaukee Biz Blog: Expanding opportunity in America
July 25, 2014 12:35 PM
Hardworking taxpayers deserve a break in this country. Too many families are working harder and harder to get ahead, and yet they're falling further and further behind. The costs of food, housing, and gas keep going up, but paychecks haven't budged. So whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, I think we can all agree: America deserves better.

Read more in a Milwaukee Biz Blog by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.

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Weekend preview
July 25, 2014 12:36 PM
Too busy working to plan your weekend? We've got you covered with the OnMilwaukee.com Weekend Preview.

Click here for the festival and entertainment lineup this weekend. OnMilwaukee.com is a media partner of BizTimes Media.

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Morning Headlines: $68 million mixed use development pitched for downtown La Crosse
July 25, 2014 12:37 PM
It was a long but productive day for Don Weber. A La Crosse County committee gave a preliminary nod Thursday to Weber Holdings’ $68 million proposal to build offices, retail space and 94 housing units on the 2.3-acre downtown parking area known as Lot C.

Read more in today’s Wisconsin Morning Headlines.

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Nonprofit Weekly: Greater Milwaukee Foundation elects new board chair, adds three directors
July 25, 2014 12:38 PM
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s board of directors has elected a new chair, Thomas Spero, retired managing partner of Deloitte & Touche, LLP’s Milwaukee office.

Read more in today’s Nonprofit Weekly.

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Culver to retire from MGIC
July 24, 2014 09:44 AM
MGIC Investment Corp. today announced that Curt Culver will retire as chief executive officer , effective March 1.

Patrick Sinks, 57, will take Culver’s place as CEO and join the board of directors. Culver, 62, will become non-executive chairman. Sinks currently serves as president and chief operating officer of both MGIC and its principal subsidiary, Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp., at which the same changes will occur.

"The board appreciates Curt's leadership and his management of the company throughout his tenure as CEO, including developing executive talent,” said Kenneth Jastrow II, lead director of MTG. “The board's selection of Pat shows its confidence that Pat will be an excellent leader, and along with the rest of the management team, will continue to move the organization forward."

Sinks has been president and COO since January 2006. He served as executive vice president-field operations from 2002 to 2006. Sinks has also worked as senior vice president-controller and chief accounting officer, and in other accounting and finance roles at the company. He holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a bachelor’s in accounting from the University of Mary.

"I am honored to continue to build on the strong foundation that Curt has established,” Sinks said. “His strategic vision, thoughtful leadership, business acumen and personal style have enabled MGIC to be a leader in our industry. Our company is well positioned for the future and our management team is as strong as it has ever been. I am confident that we will deliver the results our shareholders, customers and co-workers expect and deserve."

Culver joined MGIC in 1982 and became president in 1999. He was CEO and president from 2000 to January 2006. He has served as CEO and chairman since January 2005.

"I have been very fortunate to have had a long and successful career with a wonderful company and to have worked with so many talented people,” Culver said. “Pat has been a very important contributor to our company's success since he joined us 36 years ago. We have a tradition of internally developing our CEOs and I am proud that we have someone of Pat's caliber and expertise to lead us. I am confident that Pat's extensive industry knowledge, client-first approach and strategic vision will enable our company to prosper well into the future. My charge as non-executive chairman is to ensure a smooth transition and enable Pat to focus all of his energy on running the company."

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Storage Systems Midwest acquires Babush
July 24, 2014 09:51 AM
Storage Systems Midwest Inc., a Waukesha-based provider of materials storage solutions for commercial and industrial companies throughout the United States, has acquired Sussex-based Babush Material Handling Systems Inc.

The acquisition significantly expands Storage Systems Midwest’s design capabilities and product breadth of automated and materials handling and storage-related products. Equipment added to Storage Systems Midwest’s existing product offerings includes state-of-the-art material handling systems and conveying equipment, robotic palletizers, stretch-wrapping machines, and automated storage and retrieval systems.

According to R.J. Safranek, president of Storage Systems Midwest, the additional engineering expertise and product lines allow the company to offer a broader range of solutions designed to help manufacturers and warehousing distribution companies efficiently move, sort and package materials. The added equipment lines also complement Storage Systems Midwest’s storage solutions that are specifically designed and engineered to save time, space and labor.

“The world of logistics and the challenges our customers face change rapidly, especially for those who operate on a global scale,” Safranek said. “This product acquisition exemplifies how Storage Systems Midwest constantly evolves to match the needs of our customers – as well as our commitment to helping them increase the value of their space and move materials as efficiently as possible.”

The Babush corporate name eventually will be dissolved. Babush occupied a facility that housed offices and warehouse space in a building shared by another company, called Bevco Engineering. Babush will vacate its portion of the space.

Babush was managed by Chris Schult who served as owner/president of the company. Schult has not joined Storage Systems Midwest. Schult is president of Bevco Engineering.

Five Babush employees have joined Storage Systems Midwest. Other Babush employees have joined Bevco Engineering.

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Super Steel to hire 25 welders
July 24, 2014 10:59 AM
Milwaukee-based Super Steel LLC will hire 25 welders as it continues to grow to meet the demand of the construction and oil and gas industries.

Super Steel is growing in all areas of its business and has a strong backlog of work that President Dirk Smith expects will stretch into the first part of 2015.

“Agriculture is strong, transportation’s strong, industrial is very strong,” Smith said. “We’re picking up market share at our existing customers due to performance.”

The company is also picking up new customers, particularly in the booming construction and oil and gas sectors.

Super Steel is hosting two job fairs to fill the positions, on Saturday, Aug. 2, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and on Wednesday, Aug. 6, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at its headquarters, 7900 W. Tower Ave.

The jobs pay up to $25 per hour, and Super Steel is also offering up to $1,000 in signing bonuses.

Super Steel plans to add a total of 50 employees this year, bringing total employment to about 415, said Dirk Smith, president and chief executive officer.

The company has difficulty finding and retaining welders despite competitive wages because they are in such high demand in the area, Smith said. It has about a 50 percent retention rate for welders.

“Welders are somewhat nomadic,” he said. “We’ve created an environment here in Southeast Wisconsin where there’s high demand for welders— low supply, high demand.”

Super Steel is also hiring for engineering and project management positions to help it navigate an increasing workload.

“We’ve engaged quite a few recruiting agencies, and there just aren’t a lot of professional people in the manufacturing world right now as well,” Smith said. “I could add literally 65 people if they were out there, but we kind of augment it with overtime because we just know the candidates aren’t out there.”

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Marcus caps record quarter
July 24, 2014 09:57 AM
The Marcus Corp. today reported fiscal fourth quarter net earnings of $4.3 million, or 16 cents per share, up from $3.5 million, or 13 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

The Milwaukee-based company reported record quarterly revenues of $108.5 million, a 7.8-percent increase from $100.1 million a year earlier.

“Our excellent fourth quarter results provided a strong ending to a very solid year for The Marcus Corporation. Fiscal 2014 revenues set new records for both divisions and for the company as a whole. Marcus Theatres significantly outperformed the industry for the second consecutive quarter and Marcus Hotels & Resorts continued its steady improvement,” said Gregory Marcus, president and chief executive officer. “Our excellent fourth quarter results provided a strong ending to a very solid year for The Marcus Corporation. Fiscal 2014 revenues set new records for both divisions and for the company as a whole. Marcus Theatres significantly outperformed the industry for the second consecutive quarter and Marcus Hotels & Resorts continued its steady improvement.”

Fiscal 2014 revenues set new records for both divisions and for the company as a whole.

Revenues for Marcus Theatres were up 10.7 percent for the fourth quarter and 10.8 percent for the full year.

“The fourth quarter revenues and operating income set new records for any 13-week fourth quarter in the division’s history,” Marcus said. “Despite the fact that the national box office was down slightly during our fourth quarter period due to a weaker slate of movies in May, we achieved an 8.2-percent increase in admissions. We attribute this strong performance to the major investments we are making in our theatres, along with successful marketing and operational strategies.”

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Fridays restaurant to reopen on game days at Miller Park
July 24, 2014 09:47 AM
The Milwaukee Brewers announced that Fridays restaurant at Miller Park will reopen today on home game days only on a limited basis.

The restaurant has been closed since a fire on July 21.

Until further notice, Fridays will only be open on days when the Brewers are playing a home game at Miller Park. On those days, it will only be operational during the hours that gates are open for fans to enter Miller Park. There will be no service at any other times.

Fans who have tickets for seating on the Fridays Home Run Porch or in the Fridays Bullpen seating area for Brewers home games will be able to access those areas with a limited food service available in those locations. The bar inside of Fridays will be open to all ticketed fans from the time that gates open until the end of the game. Service in the bar area will be limited to beverages only; there will not be any food served.

Fridays Beer Garden will be open from the time that gates open until the end of the game.

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