Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:32 pm
Opus North Corp. plans to begin construction in September on a 140,000-square-foot industrial building, the first phase of a light industrial park the firm will develop in Oak Creek.
Three years ago, Opus North bought 92 acres of farmland northwest of the intersection of Howell Avenue and Oakwood Road on the south end of Oak Creek for the industrial park. The industrial park, to be built on speculation and called Oakwood Crossings Business Center, will have about 1 million square feet of industrial space once it is fully developed, said Jay Craig, senior real estate director for Opus North.
Construction of the entire park will likely take six to eight years to be completed, Craig said.
The first industrial building could accommodate up to six tenants, Craig said.
“We’ve talked to a few folks, but we don’t have anybody committed,” Craig said. “It’s 100 percent spec.”
Opus North is the architect and general contractor for the building, as well as the developer of the industrial park.
Initially, the U.S. Postal Service considered the business park as a possible location for a regional mail processing and distribution center to replace its downtown Milwaukee center. However, the postal service later cancelled its relocation plans and decided to remain at the downtown facility.
The Oak Creek business park will be built in an area where the last remaining farms in Milwaukee County are rapidly disappearing and are being replaced by development. The area is an attractive sub-market for commercial development, Craig said.
“You’ve got the airport nearby and you’re also close to the freeway system,” he said. “You’re also not far from points south, including Racine, Kenosha and ultimately Chicago.”
However, Oak Creek Mayor Richard Bolender is not happy about the business park development. Bolender said he is eager to attract businesses to build up the tax base in Oak Creek. However, he said those business developments must fit in with the surrounding environment.
Bolender and several other Oak Creek residents were upset when Opus North cut down a five- to six-acre wooded area on the west side of the property with mature hickory, walnut and oak trees.
“I’m still mad about it,” Bolender said. “You can develop your city and keep the environment in mind.”
The trees were 60 to 100 years old, Bolender said.
“I’d like to see the environment included in development,” he said. “That’s what gives your city class. They were taking the oak out of Oak Creek. You can’t replace those trees.”
Bolender said he also is upset about the 140,000-square-foot industrial building, which he described as a “trucking terminal.”
An attractive office building would have been better suited for that high-profile location, and the spec industrial building should have been built in the back of the property, Bolender said.
Bolender was an alderman when the development was approved by the Oak Creek Common Council. He voted against the project but was outvoted by his fellow aldermen.
“You go down Howell Avenue, and instead of looking at trees, we’re going to look at trucks,” Bolender said. “It’s going to be industrial, and that’s good. But to me, it’s the wrong place for it.”
Craig said he was surprised to hear about Bolender’s objections to the project.
“The people I’ve been working with from the city have been terrific,” he said. “The park is going to add a substantial amount of tax base to Oak Creek.”
Craig said the spec industrial building is not intended to be a trucking terminal. The plans for the building include 12 to 14 docks, but that could be expanded to about 40 if requested by tenants, he said.
Marketplace conditions indicate a greater demand for industrial development at the site than an office building, Craig said.
“This is a market-driven development,” Craig said. “We feel the right use would be a light industrial business park.”
The businesses that are thinking about having operations in the industrial park are from the Milwaukee area, Craig said.
Southeastern Wisconsin’s industrial real estate market appears to be slowly picking up steam as the national economy improves, Craig said. Opus North is counting on that improvement to help fill the Oakwood Crossings Business Center.
“My sense is you’re seeing a lot of manufacturers starting to say, ‘We’re back on track now. Let’s make that capital investment we haven’t made in the last few years,'” Craig said. “We’re not seeing a lot of that all of a sudden, but we’re starting to get more interest. I’m starting to talk to a lot of people about expansions or consolidations.”
By Andrew Weiland, of SBT
Commercial real estate development shows no signs of slowing down in Oak Creek, particularly in the retail sector.
“There’s so much going on,” said Doug Seymour, the city’s director of community development. “For the last decade, we’ve seen a lot of activity. The activity was primarily residential in the 1990s.”
Strong residential development is still occurring in Oak Creek, but now commercial development is following the rising population, Seymour said. The city’s population grew by 45 percent in the 1990s from 19,513 in 1990 to 28,456 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The change in demographics has made Oak Creek a much better place to do business,” he said.
The new retail development on the drawing board for Oak Creek includes:
¥ Roundy’s Pick ‘n Save plans to build a new 60,000-square-foot store at 2320 W. Ryan Road. It would be the third Pick ‘n Save store in Oak Creek. The grocery chain also has stores at 8770 S. Howell Ave. and at 6462 S. 27th St.
¥ Bax Global Inc. plans to build a 50,000-square-foot distribution center at 7420 S. Howell Ave. in the Oak Creek Business and Commerce Center. The company will occupy 37,500 square feet of the building and lease out the remaining 12,500 square feet.
¥ A Mobil gas station, convenience store and car wash is planned for 9444 S. Chicago Road.
¥ An Advance Auto Parts store is planned for South 27th Street between Rawson and College avenues.
Oak Creek continues to boom
Construction continues on a 125,000 square-foot Target store at Howell Avenue and Centennial Drive. The store is expected to open in March.
Construction is nearing completion of a North Shore Bank branch at Howell and Puetz Road, across the street from a St. Francis Bank branch and another retail center that was recently built.
A Gladon Co. swimming pool supplies manufacturing plant and an Ebenezer Childcare Center are being built in the Howell Oaks Business Center at Howell and Forest Hill avenues.
“It’s been a domino affect,” Seymour said. “Once one retailer does well, a lot of others want to be here.”
While retail and residential development remain strong in Oak Creek, industrial development is sporadic, and office development is limited, Seymour said. However, industrial development is picking up, and the city expects to eventually attract several significant office developments along South 27th Street near the new Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. facility.
“I think the South 27th Street corridor in Franklin and Oak Creek offers tremendous potential for office development,” Seymour said.
August 20, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI