Commercial Real Estate Book 2008

The theme for this year’s Small Business Times Commercial Real Estate & Development Book and Conference is “Back to the City.”

Quite frankly, we couldn’t have selected a more timely topic. You only need to look at the construction cranes and the condominium projects in the downtown Milwaukee skyline to see how baby boomers and young professionals are flocking back to the city in droves to enjoy the amenities of urban life.

The next step in the downtown rebirth will be new commercial real estate development.

At Small Business Times, we’re walking the walk. We recently moved to some great new office space in a restored building in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. Those cream city bricks and wood timber frames were calling us!

This is our fifth annual conference, and we’ve again booked a solid lineup of speakers. Each year, we explore a timely issue that is having significant impact on the region’s commercial real estate development scene. Previous topics have included: the Pabst Brewery redevelopment; tax incremental financing (TIF); New Market Tax Credits; the secrets of site selection; capturing national investment dollars for Milwaukee developments; and brownfield redevelopment.

This year’s theme examines the revitalization of downtown Milwaukee, and I think you’ll also enjoy the vignettes that capture the essence of some of the more successful downtowns in the region.

This book includes the annual SBT Honor Roll of Prime Leasable Space and the SBT Municipal Development Guide.

You’ll also learn about Laura Bray, the winner of this year’s Bell Best Public Partner Award.

We’re proud to partner with the Marquette University Bell Real Estate Program and

the Commercial Association of Realtors  Wisconsin (CARW) to present this annual conference and publication.

I want to personally thank our sponsors: First Wisconsin Bank & Trust; Building Advantage of Wisconsin Construction Contractors & Trades; Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C.; and CenterPoint Properties.

Together, we’re adding to the momentum that is bringing more people and businesses “Back to the City.”

Dan Meyer is publisher of Small Business Times.


The Commercial Association of Realtors of Wisconsin has enjoyed a partnership with Small Business Times in promoting thought-provoking subjects over the years. This year, we look at the expansion of the central business district in “Back to the City” and the implications on commercial real estate.

When you stand back and take a panoramic view of downtown, speckled with the cranes, orange construction barrels and detour signs, you come to realize that downtown Milwaukee is going through a renaissance. Milwaukee and many other communities nationally are experiencing a new trend where residents are moving from the suburbs back downtown. Empty nesters of the baby boom generation are letting go of their higher-maintenance home in the suburbs to the low-maintenance living in a downtown condominium.

This residential influx of downtown living has spurred a corresponding increase in the redevelopment of existing and in some cases new construction of retail and office product.   Services that have been added are coffeehouses, restaurants, grocery stores  and hospital expansions. These services are critical to sustain the new population and, in turn, encourage others to live downtown now that there are quality amenities in close proximity.

If these services are not maintained and expanded, many feel that downtown living will not continue to grow or be sustained at the current level. There exists a possibility that current residents downtown may move back to the suburbs if retail and other services are not expanded to accommodate the growing demand of the office and residential population  

In downtown Milwaukee, commercial real estate development has lagged compared with the residential construction thus far. Although, we have had some promising successes with the Grand Avenue, Kenilworth project, Whole Foods  and new high-end restaurants, the office sector has lagged in the rebound. This sector has seen only moderate absorption from tenants mostly moving from one building to another with little expansion.  Downtown Milwaukee has a bright future with new residents and a large supply of excellent developable land with the Park East and Pabst City to name a few.

As a community we need to encourage governmental entities to work closer with real estate developers to streamline the process and continue commercial development of retail and office projects downtown.

Andrew Jensen Jr. is the new chairman of the board of the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin and is a principal at The Boerke Company Inc.


Marquette University’s College of Business Administration Real Estate Program is delighted to be partnering with Small Business Times and the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin for the fifth annual Commercial Real Estate & Development Conference, entitled “Back to the City.”
We are fortunate to have locally and nationally-recognized presenters participating today to help us explore the fact that a growing number of Americans are returning to the city and the implications of this trend on downtown commercial real estate here in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee is fortunate in that it can boast that the AARP rated the city (in September/October 2007) as one of “Five Great Places to Live.” The organization cited Milwaukee’s condo developments, the urban renewal lifestyle and the access to entertainment and services as reasons why empty nesters are returning to urban living in our downtown neighborhoods. People of all ages are making the choice to return to our nation’s urban centers thus impacting downtown commercial development. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation will add about 32 million households between 2000 and 2025 and only 4 million of these will have children.  As such, 88 percent of the next generation of net new households will be without children; where they choose to live, work and play has a significant impact on our built environment. Today we have the opportunity to learn from our panelists as to where this trend is taking us and how to prepare for the changing way we live, work and play.

Professor Mark Eppli, PH.D., is professor of finance and the Robert B. Bell Sr. chair in Real Estate in the College of Business at Marquette University.

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