Chicago developer isn’t discouraged by county’s Park East mandates

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

Rich Curto is bullish on the Park East Freeway corridor in downtown Milwaukee. Curto is the chief executive officer of Chicago-based RSC & Associates. The company is a full-service commercial real estate firm that owns, finances, develops, redevelops, manages and leases office, residential, retail and industrial real estate.
The company’s projects currently under construction include development of 211 condominiums, lofts and townhouses in downtown Elgin, Ill., and a mixed-use project in downtown Oak Park, Ill., that will include 44 luxury condos, a 45,000-square-foot day spa and health club and 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
The company also has proposed a project in downtown Lombard, Ill., to restore the vacant DuPage Theatre and build 86 condos and apartments, and 23,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space.
RSC & Associates is the only company that has submitted development proposals for both a 10,201-square-foot parcel of land owned by the City of Milwaukee at the corner of Pleasant, Jefferson and Water streets, and for an almost two-acre parcel of Milwaukee County-owned land bounded by Ogden Avenue, Jefferson, Lyon and Milwaukee streets.
“Overall, Milwaukee is, we think, a very good market,” said Curto, who lived in Milwaukee from 1974 to 1980 when he worked for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. “It’s grown quite a bit in that (downtown) corridor.”
In cities across the nation, including Milwaukee, there is a growing demand for downtown development, Curto said. The Park East corridor is a 64-acre area on the north side of downtown where city officials hope to attract more development to meet that demand.
“People today, they’re looking for an urban experience,” Curto said. “In this segment of the market, it isn’t happening only in Milwaukee, it’s happening all over.”
The RSC & Associates proposals for the two sites in the Park East Freeway corridor are mixed use projects, Curto said. He declined to provide further details about the projects, citing a confidentiality agreement with the city.
The city-owned property is a small, sloped, triangular-shaped piece of land, but it is a very important site for the Park East corridor, Curto said.
“It’s such a critical site to make a statement,” he said. “In our opinion, it’s the entryway (to the Park East corridor). If (the city) doesn’t handle it right, it could have a negative impact on the whole area. It’s a challenging site, but we like challenges.”
The slope of the property makes it more interesting, but harder to develop, he said.
“It’s just a beautiful little site,” Curto said. “The topography is excellent. It’s more challenging to develop, but it just ads a terrific amount of interest.”
In addition to RSC & Associates, the other firms that submitted development proposals for the city-owned parcel are Milwaukee-based Katz Project Development, Pleasant Prairie-based Legacy Real Estate Partners, Milwaukee-based Stack Development Inc., Milwaukee-based Central Investment Co. and Mequon-based Milestone Development.
Katz Project Development has proposed a 53,000-square-foot, mixed-use building that would “swoop” from eight stories on one side to three stories on the other, said Katz Project Development principal Phillip Katz.
The building would have restaurant and retail space on the first two floors and an environmentally friendly “green” roof. Katz has provided two options to the city for the rest of the building, an office space option and a residential space option.
Stack Development Inc. has submitted a proposal to build a four-story mixed use building for the city-owned site, said Stack Development president Thomas Stachowiak. The building would have a restaurant and another tenant on the first floor. The second floor would be for office space and the third and fourth floors would have residential condominiums.
The other firms that submitted proposals for the city owned site in the Park East corridor could not be reached or declined to comment.
Milwaukee-based Boulder Venture Inc. and Milwaukee-based Hammel, Green and Abrahamson Architects submitted the only other proposal for the county-owned site. Maureen Goetz, development coordinator for Boulder Venture, could not be reached for comment.
RSC submitted its proposal for the county-owned site as part of a joint venture with Chicago-based developer Morgan Group Inc. and Milwaukee-based architect Legat & Barrientos.
“What we have planned (for the county-owned site) is very exciting,” Curto said.
Earlier this year, the Milwaukee County Board approved the Park East Redevelopment Compact (PERC). The PERC requires that construction workers be paid union scale wages. It also indicates that developers who include affordable housing, environmentally friendly “green” design principals, hire minority workers and provide other community benefits will be more likely to have their proposal selected.
Several Milwaukee-area real estate professionals predicted that the PERC would discourage developers from building on the county-owned land in the Park East corridor. Only two proposals were submitted in response to the first request for proposal for a parcel of county-owned land in the corridor. By comparison, six proposals were submitted for the much smaller city-owned property that is not subject to the PERC requirements.
However, Curto said his company will have no problems meeting the requirements of the PERC.
“We use union labor,” he said. “We abide by the rules. They weren’t arbitrarily set. They had a reason to set those, and they are fine from our respect. Our philosophy is urban planning first, quality development second and profit third.”
April 29, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display