Architectural firm has designs on valley site

    Zimmerman Architectural Studios Inc. plans to move its corporate headquarters from Wauwatosa to an historic building in the Menomonee Valley in Milwaukee.

    The firm plans to occupy a 30,000-square-foot building owned by Milwaukee-based Mallory Properties, located southeast of West Greves Street and North 25th Street.

    Zimmerman is currently based in the Wauwatosa village area, occupying about 12,000 square feet of space at 7707 Harwood Ave., but also has about 10,000 square feet of office space at 7420 W. State St., Wauwatosa, and just less than 10,000 square feet of space at 205 W. Highland Ave. in downtown Milwaukee.

    The valley building will provide needed space and will increase efficiencies by having all of the employees in the same location, said Dave Stroik, president and chief executive officer of Zimmerman Design Group.

    “We’ve grown rapidly, and we need to consolidate,” he said.

    The architectural firm plans to occupy the  entire 30,000-square-foot building from Mallory Properties in the Menomonee Valley. The firm plans to build a 15,000-square-foot mezzanine level in the building, so it will have a total of 45,000 square feet of office space there.

    The building is the largest of a seven-building complex on the 25-acre property owned by Mallory along the north side of the Menomonee River. Most of the buildings, including the one that Zimmerman plans to move into, are about 100 years old and were originally used by the Milwaukee Gas Light Co. for the coal gasification process of burning coal to create gas to light the city’s street lights. Zimmerman’s building features 60-foot high ceilings, and Stroik said he has heard rumors that the Green Bay Packers used the building for practices many years ago when they were playing in Milwaukee.

    “The buildings are unique,” Stroik said. “When you get into the history of it, it’s fascinating.”

    Another major attraction for the building is it will have ample parking for the 130 Zimmerman employees. Stroik said the valley location provides a nice compromise for his employees that prefer the suburbs and the city-loving “urban animals” (as Stroik calls them) who want to work in the city.

    With its freeway frontage, freeway access and parking, the property has a lot of the attributes that made the Honey Creek Corporate Center on the west side of the city such a success, Stroik said.

    Zimmerman provides an anchor tenant for Mallory Properties’ plans to redevelop the site. A representative for Mallory Properties did not return calls for comment.

    Two years ago, Mallory Properties unveiled plans to transform the property into a $60 million business park. According to those plans, the historic buildings on the western half of the property, totaling 128,000 square feet of space, will be renovated into research and office space. The plans also included light industrial development for the eastern half of the property.

    Mallory Properties acquired the western half of the property in 1985 from Schwerman Trucking and purchased the eastern half of the site in 2001 from LaFarge Corp.

    Zimmerman plans to move into the building during the second half of 2009.

    “I think it’s going to be an exciting site,” Stroik said.

    The company decided to move its headquarters from suburban Wauwatosa to the city of Milwaukee, despite voter approval of a sick leave mandate in the city of Milwaukee that will require employers in the city to provide each full-time employee nine days of paid sick days each year. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) has filed a lawsuit challenging the sick leave law.

    However, Stroik said the sick leave mandate is not a major concern for him.

    “There are so many other issues associated with running and moving a company,” he said. “I noticed (the sick leave mandate), but with all of the other brush fires and fish to fry, it seemed like a minor point.”

    Zimmerman might adjust its benefits package, including vacation days, to comply with the sick leave law and make it work for the company, Stroik said.

    “All it becomes is another part of the HR package,” he said. “It will just be something we factor in. It gets factored into an overall package.” 

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