Bader Rutter, Master Lock in talks with Wangard for Laacke & Joys project

Both tenants could relocate headquarters to Milwaukee from suburbs

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Wangard Partners is in talks with Brookfield-based Bader Rutter & Associates and Oak Creek-based Master Lock as potential anchor tenants for an office building development planned by Wangard at the former Laacke & Joys site in downtown Milwaukee, according to numerous sources.

New office building planned on Laacke & Joys site
Sources say Bader Rutter and Master Lock have been in talks with Wangard Partners about moving to the office building development planned by Wangard at the former Laacke & Joys site.

“We’ve talked to Bader Rutter and we’re talking to others,” Stewart Wangard, chief executive officer of Wauwatosa-based Wangard Partners, said during an interview earlier this month. “We’re actively talking to a couple of anchors and we’re actively talking to a half a dozen smaller other tenants.”

When asked about Master Lock as a potential tenant for the project, Wangard would not confirm and only said, “wow.”

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“We have a lot of work ahead of us before we close,” Wangard said. “I’m working on it every single day. Burton (Metz, Wangard Partners vice president) has been working long hours to make this thing come together. It’s a fun project.”

Wangard is planning a project to create a 113,830-square-foot office building at the former Laacke & Joys site, located at 1433 N. Water St. along the Milwaukee River. The firm plans to tear down a four-story, 142-year-old building, and another building on the site, while keeping one four story building, built in 1930, according to plans submitted plans to the city. A new five-story office building would be built attached to the 1930 building, which would also be used as office space, according to the plans.

Several commercial real estate sources familiar with the project said Bader Rutter and Master Lock have been in negotiations with Wangard about the project. Those sources said Bader Rutter, a public relations, advertising and marketing firm currently located at 13845 Bishop’s Drive Brookfield, is “much further along,” in negotiations than Master Lock.

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Bader Rutter has been in the market for office space and has been considering plans to relocate since 2013. At that time, the firm was seeking 60,000 to 70,000 square feet of office space and was considering sites in the downtown Milwaukee area and in the western suburbs.

Bader Rutter has more than 200 employees, according to its website. The firm currently occupies about 55,000 square feet of office space in Bishops Woods. Bader Rutter is represented by Siegel-Gallagher principal Marianne Burish, who would not comment.

Master Lock, located 137 W. Forest Hill Ave., Oak Creek, has also looked at Wangard’s project at the Laacke & Joys site, but is also looking at a number of other alternatives, according to several commercial real estate sources.

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The company moved its corporate headquarters from 2600 N. 32nd St. in Milwaukee to Oak Creek in 2003, moving about 180 jobs out of the city.

A source said Wangard is seeking tax incremental financing from the city to help bring the suburban office tenants to the downtown development project.

Alderman Nik Kovac, who represents the district where the Laacke & Joys site is located, would not comment on potential tenants, but said he’s happy to see more office development planned along North Water Street.

“What we are seeing is companies potentially following workers who live downtown,” Kovac said. “The apartment boom will be more sustaining if it brings office jobs in its wake.”

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