Bucks arena, streetcar to open in 2018

Economic Trends

Construction of the new arena in downtown Milwaukee will be completed this year.

In late November, work on the Milwaukee Bucks arena shifted indoors. And while passersby can no longer see what is happening, the $524 million project continues to hit milestones as crews prepare for a September opening.

Construction of the main scoreboard structure is underway and work on the ice rink has started, with an expected completion date of March.

From now through May, 750 seats will be installed per week. The basketball floor will be installed in summer and the project should be substantially completed by August.

Construction of the new arena in downtown Milwaukee will be completed this year.

By the time it is unveiled to the public, 800 pieces of art will be hung or placed on the walls of the 714,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.

“For us, it is about continuing the momentum,” said Bucks president Peter Feigin. “We are literally now only six months away. We have a building to get open.”

The arena isn’t the only big civic project in Milwaukee that is nearing completion. Since April, track installation on the initial route of the Milwaukee Streetcar has meant lane closures in parts of downtown Milwaukee and the Historic Third Ward. Now, 90 percent of the track is complete on the initial route.

The first streetcar is on track to be operational this fall.

One of the eventual stops on the streetcar will be The Couture, a $122 million, 44-story tower that will include 302 luxury apartments and about 50,000 square feet of retail space. The project, which will be located at the former Downtown Transit Center, was expected to break ground in spring 2017, but has been delayed. It is now expected to break ground in the first quarter of 2018.

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. opened its $450 million, 1 million-square-foot Tower and Commons office building in August. This year, the company will open a $100 million, 34-story parking and residential tower at 777 N. Van Buren St., which will be called 7Seventy7.

Milwaukee developer Joshua Jeffers had a busy 2017, with several projects expected to move forward in 2018. Those projects include a seven-story, mixed-use building adjacent to the historic Mackie and Button Block buildings, to be called Broadway Connection.

He is also working on a $30 million project with Tony Janowiec, one of the owners of the Shops of Grand Avenue, to redevelop the Milwaukee Athletic Club building downtown.

Jeffers purchased the 20-story 633 Building in downtown Milwaukee in 2017. He is planning to redevelop the building’s former Greyhound Bus Terminal, a 48,000-square-foot commercial space located on the southern side of the first floor.

In addition, The City of Milwaukee recently took ownership of the former Northridge Mall Boston Store building on Milwaukee’s far northwest side for future redevelopment. Over the next year, expect the city to move forward with long-awaited plans to redevelop the former 153,000-square-foot department store, parking lot and ring road surrounding the store.

Office

In November, Irgens Partners LLC began construction on the 25-story BMO Tower, a downtown office building that will be home to BMO Harris Bank’s Wisconsin headquarters and Milwaukee law firm Michael Best & Friedrich LLP. The $132.6 million project will not be complete until 2019, but with the demolition of BMO Harris Bank’s seven-level parking structure at 770 N. Water St. to make space for the tower this month and ongoing construction, the project will be a main focal point of downtown throughout the year.

Brookfield-based Hammes Co. LLC will complete phase one of its five-story office building at the northeast corner of Knapp and Water Streets in downtown Milwaukee this year. The real estate development company is planning to move about 80 employees to the building.

Three possible projects to watch for in 2018:

  • The Marcus Corp.’s Edison Place, a 20-story, mixed-use development in the Park East Corridor that has been in the works for more than a year. Early renderings showed an eight-screen movie theater, 162,000 square feet of residential space and 113,800 square feet of office, although the company has not yet moved forward with plans.
  • Mandel Group Inc. announced plans in late 2016 for a three-building, 275,000-square-foot office development along the Milwaukee River in the city’s Walker’s Point neighborhood, which has not yet broken ground.
  • A city panel approved a request by HKS Holdings LLC to build a 24-story tower along the Milwaukee River just north of downtown, but the developer isn’t saying what the development will include. In May, a city panel approved a height variance waiver for the building, which would be north of Bader Rutter’s new headquarters at 1433 N. Water St. When Kyle Strigenz, co-owner of HKS Holdings, was asked why the building is planned for 24 stories, he said the height “fits with what we already have planned out.” When asked to elaborate, Strigenz said he could not do so at this time. HKS has 36 months until the waiver expires.

Retail

Brick-and-mortar retail has changed dramatically in recent years, and perhaps no one is more aware of that than the owners of suburban shopping malls.

With the closure of all local Sears Holdings Corp. department stores and the uncertainty of Boston Store parent The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., Milwaukee-area malls and municipal leaders will be looking at the future and how these massive property tax generators can survive.

Southridge Mall in Greendale lost Sears over the summer and Kohl’s will move out of the mall to the 84South development in Greenfield this year. The mall’s remaining anchors, Macy’s, JCPenney and Boston Store, have all struggled and have been closing stores. Macy’s Inc. and JCPenney Co. Inc. are both closing more than 100 stores in 2017. The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., which has dual headquarters in Milwaukee and York, Pennsylvania, has not turned an annual profit since 2010 and plans to close 40 stores in 2018. Boston Store occupies 103,837 square feet at Southridge.

In December, Bayshore Town Center in Glendale was acquired by an affiliate of New York-based AIG Global Real Estate Services in a deed in lieu of foreclosure transfer. The 38.4-acre parcel, which includes the retail mall, apartments and office tenants, underwent two management changes in 2017 and several discussions about redevelopment plans on the north end of the mall, including adding a Nordstrom Rack at the recently demolished former Sears store site.

Sears Holdings announced in January it would close the last remaining Sears department store in southeast Wisconsin at Brookfield Square Mall. Brookfield officials and mall owner Chattanooga, Tennessee-based CBL & Associates Properties Inc. have been planning ahead for the anticipated closure. Marcus Theatres will open a 40,000-square-foot BistroPlex at the site, and a two-level, 45,000-square-foot Whirlyball entertainment and restaurant venue is planned.

Hotels

The City of Brookfield is also planning to redevelop nine acres including the former Sears Auto Center at Brookfield Square Mall into a 170-room hotel and connected conference center.

The hotel is one of three planned in Brookfield and several in the works in the Milwaukee area.

Burlington, Iowa-based Hawkeye Hotels purchased 5 acres of land in The Corridor development along I-94 in Brookfield. The company is planning to build a Holiday Inn Express & Suites and a Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in the middle of the 66-acre Irgens development.

Moving east, HKS Holdings is developing a 120-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel at Milwaukee County Research Park in Wauwatosa.

Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley broke ground in December on a second hotel tower, a 19-story addition that will expand the property by 180,000 square feet. The $80 million project will be complete in spring 2019.

In downtown Milwaukee, hotel projects include a 150-room, six-story Hyatt Place hotel under construction at The Brewery complex and a 200-room Drury Hotel at the First Financial Centre, 700 N. Water St. In addition, Ascendant Holdings plans to convert the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center building into a 220-room hotel.

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