City panel backs funds to study lakefront site for Johnson Controls

The city of Milwaukee’s Redevelopment Authority recently endorsed a plan to provide a $250,000 grant to pay for half of the cost to study the development feasibility of a lakefront site where Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc. might build a new office building.

The 2.5-acre site is located southwest of East Clybourn Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive. The state Department of Transportation plans to reconfigure the Lake Interchange and will remove freeway ramps from the site, which will open it up for possible development.

Johnson Controls has indicated that is considering plans to build a new building on the site. It has not disclosed information about the project publicly, but earlier this year Alderman Robert Bauman told BizTimes Milwaukee that the company was considering plans for a 50-story office building on the site.

The city has been promoting and marketing the site as a potentially “monumental project.”

“JCI is evaluating opportunities to accommodate their growth,” states a city document on the site study grant proposal. “One opportunity that they wish to explore is construction of a new building on the Clybourn site. JCI projects that they need to expend $500,000 for site investigation and due diligence in order to obtain more information on the Clybourn site and determine whether it is a suitable site for their needs. In the event JCI decided to not pursue the Clybourn site, the due diligence documentation provided by JCI to the city in return for the Clybourn site cash grant will help the city’s efforts in marketing the Clybourn site to other prospective developers.”

One issue facing the site is the ongoing battle between parks advocacy group Preserve Our Parks and Milwaukee County over the development rights of the Downtown Transit Center site, located northeast of the possible Johnson Controls building site. County officials want to sell the Downtown Transit Center site to Barrett Lo Visionary Development, which would build a 44-story luxury apartment tower, called The Couture. But Preserve Our Parks says the site was originally part of Lake Michigan and therefore private development is not permitted there by the state’s public trust doctrine.

The matter will ultimately be settled in court. The county is suing Preserve Our Parks in an attempt to establish its development rights for the site so it can obtain title insurance. The results of that legal fight could also impact the possible Johnson Controls site, part of which also may have originally been in the lakebed so it too could also be subject to the public trust doctrine.

The city funds for the Clybourn site study would come from the tax incremental financing district created to subsidize the new 32-story office tower at the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. corporate headquarters campus. The funding still is subject to approval of the full Common Council.

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