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Construction crews have been busy at the former Kmart store at 2701 S. Chase Road for the past several months, working to transform the shell of the former retail store into the new headquarters for United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS).
UMOS, a non-profit agency dedicated to improving the employment, education, health and well being of under-served populations in Wisconsin and several other states, has offices scattered around Milwaukee’s near south side.
The non-profit organization purchased the 120,000-square-foot Kmart building earlier this year for about $2.7 million, and is in the midst of a $2.4 million renovation there.
The conversion of the former department store into an administrative complex, which will be called The UMOS Center, will enable the agency’s headquarters to be in one building.
"As UMOS continues to grow both its grant revenue and people, we were looking to find a new location where we could house all of our administrative staff, which are now in two buildings," said Rod Ritcherson, special assistant to the president, corporate affairs, with UMOS. "One of the main purposes is to get everyone under one roof."
The agency also owns several other buildings on West Mitchell and South 9th streets in Milwaukee, which it will continue to operate after its administration is consolidated at the former Kmart building.
Talks about eventual long-term consolidations continue, Ritcherson said.
"The big picture is how we can consolidate to be the most efficient," he said. "That decision has not been made yet. There are options to explore."
UMOS will continue to run its job center and Latina Resource Center away from The UMOS Center after administration moves in on Feb. 1, 2005.
The Latina Resource Center is the only domestic violence resource that targets Hispanic women in Wisconsin. It offers education, interventions, client advocacy, case management and support services.
UMOS has already signed a long-term lease with Chuck E. Cheese and is converting 30,000 square feet of the space inside the former Kmart into retail areas, which could accommodate up to three retailers.
Ritcherson said UMOS has contracted with Ogden & Company, Inc., to fill the 30,000 square feet of retail space, and has had some early talks with several potential retailers who may be interested in all or part of the space.
The UMOS administration area is expected to take up about 30,000 square feet of space. The remaining 40,000 square feet will be converted into a banquet area that will include smaller meeting areas, Ritcherson said.
The area will also work well for education and training seminars, he said.
UMOS has contracted with the BMR Design Group, a Milwaukee design firm, for architectural services on the project. The main contractor is JP Cullen & Sons, which has offices in Janesville and Brookfield.
The renovation includes a sprucing-up of the building’s exterior, with the former upper level fa?ade replaced, existing archways enlarged for a more Mediterranean feel and a host of new windows added to the front of the building.
Interior walls to separate offices and different sections are being created now, because Kmart’s interior was a large open space, Ritcherson said.
JP Cullen & Sons has agreed to have 30 percent of the project’s workforce be comprised of minority-owned firms, while 5 percent will be women-owned firms.
Bill Horner, development specialist for UMOS, said the overall good condition of the Kmart building was one of its selling points.
"It had a new roof several years ago," Horner said. "And it was all sprinklered (for fire prevention). We just had to convert it to our purposes."
The existing heating, cooling and ventilation system is in good shape, Ritcherson said, and was another reason UMOS became interested in purchasing it.
Ritcherson said the new facility will not only mean long-term savings for UMOS, but will also become a revenue stream.
"When we want to have an all-staff training (session), we have to go to a hotel or rent a large hall," he said. "We won’t have to do that any longer."
October 29, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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