Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 10:56 am
In the spring of 2016, three buildings on the north end of Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood were sold to a New York-based restaurant supply store.
The properties totaled just more than 8 acres between South First Street and the Kinnickinnic River, south of West Becher Street.
Underutilized industrial buildings were demolished and a 70,000-square-foot Restaurant Depot was constructed.
The development was a win for the intersection, which had been neglected for years.
Two years later, the Becher Street corridor, which has direct access to I-94, large tracts of developable land and connectivity to the burgeoning Harbor District, is becoming one of the most exciting areas on the south side.
In August, Brownsville-based construction company Michels Corp. announced a $100 million plan to redevelop the former Horny Goat Hideaway property northwest of South First Street and West Becher Street, along the Kinnickinnic River.
The six-acre site will include an eight-story office building, half of which will be occupied by about 400 Michels Corp. employees. When completely built out, the entire campus could include 220,000 square feet of office space, 67 units of multi-family housing, 19,000 square feet of retail, a 103-room hotel and nearly 1,000 underground parking spaces.
Michels purchased the former Horny Goat property at 2011-2029 S. First St. in April for $3.6 million. Phase one of the project, called R1ver, is expected to be completed by summer 2020.
Meanwhile, Texas-based real estate firm Transwestern has been marketing a second development site directly across the Kinnickinnic River, facing the planned Michels tower. The 6.8-acre waterfront property at 1933 S. First St. currently holds a warehouse owned by Milwaukee Pier Inc.
In August, Milwaukee Pier sold a 2-acre site directly west of the Michels site, northeast of South Fourth Street and West Becher Street, near I-94.
Within the past two years, nearly every property along Becher Street from South First Street to South Kinnickinnic Avenue has been sold, with the exception of the BP gas station, said Kevin Schmoldt, a real estate broker with commercial real estate agency NAI MLG Commercial.
Schmoldt said Bay View has been hot for about 10 years, but the increase in activity over the past two to three months has been incredible.
Through his real estate investment company, Simple Bayview LLC, Schmoldt purchased the commercial portion of the Bayview Commons development at the southwest corner of East Becher Street and South Kinnickinnic Avenue in the spring.
His tenants include Southern Lakes Physical Therapy, Subway, Verizon, Barre District and State Farm.
At the time, Schmoldt knew the vacant former Hamburger Mary’s restaurant across the street at 2130 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. was being redeveloped by Milwaukee-based New Land Enterprises LLP.
The New Land project, called The Beacon, will be a six-story, 144-unit apartment building with first-floor retail and a public plaza connecting to Zillman Park.
Schmoldt soon found out Wheel & Sprocket would be opening its first Milwaukee bike shop around the corner from his building at 187 E. Becher St. in a vacant 12,000-square-foot warehouse.
The store will also include a public gathering area, a place to buy beer and coffee, and Wheel & Sprocket’s new corporate headquarters. The company is currently based in Hales Corners.
“When I bought my building, I thought over the next five to 10 years what is happening in Walker’s Point would make its way south,” Schmoldt said. “I didn’t expect this would happen in just one year.”
Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski, who represents Bay View, credits the development on the north end of the neighborhood to careful urban planning.
“Another fast-food restaurant wanted to go into the Hamburger Mary’s space and I said I wouldn’t support it,” Zielinski said. “It wasn’t the highest and best use. So now we have a 150-unit housing development with commercial. I’ve tried to push commercial where it needs to go and preserve our neighborhoods.”
As the Michels site and others are redeveloped, and the Harbor District to the northeast begins to fill in, what is happening along South First Street and Becher Street will seem natural, Schmoldt said.
“The Restaurant Depot seems pretty boring now and Michels seems like a bold decision,” Schmoldt said. “But in 10 years, (Michels’ campus) will seem like it has always been there.”