Despite gas prices, region ramps up for more visitors

Milwaukee is getting a major new tourist attraction this weekend, the city’s casino is phasing in a major expansion and several new hotels in the area will open or will be under construction during the second half of the year.

All of that should add up to good news for the region’s hospitality and tourism industry, but rising oil prices and the nation’s struggling economy could put a damper on hotel room occupancy, said a hotel industry analyst. High gas prices are encouraging many travelers to stay home and are crippling the airline industry. That could spell trouble for the hotel industry.

“The hotel industry is going to go through a real adjustment,” said Greg Hanis, president of Pewaukee-based Hospitality Marketers International Inc. “People are already starting to make adjustments to their summer travel patterns (because of rising gas prices). New hotels, if they’re coming out of the ground that’s one thing. But if they’re still sitting in somebody’s filing cabinet, caution is the word I would use.”

Nevertheless, area hotels are hoping for a major boost from this weekend’s opening of the 130,000-square-foot Harley-Davidson Museum, located at the east end of the Menomonee River Valley, just south of downtown Milwaukee. About 350,000 people are expected to visit the museum each year. In addition to exhibit space, the museum complex also has a restaurant, a café and a retail store.

“It is just phenomenal,” said Doug Neilson, president and chief executive officer of Visit Milwaukee, who has been given a sneak preview of the museum. “It is a museum that everyone will have the opportunity to enjoy, not just motorcycle enthusiasts.”

The Harley-Davidson Museum will give Milwaukee a unique attraction that will help attract conventions and tourists, Neilson said.

“It is a one-of-a-kind type of attraction,” he said. “No one is going to be able to visit any other city and see a Harley-Davidson Museum.”

Harley-Davidson’s customers are so loyal, the museum is expected to draw many of them to come to Milwaukee. Many of those loyal Harley enthusiasts will descend upon the area during the 105th Harley-Davidson anniversary celebration from Aug. 28-31.

The Harley museum is the second major tourism development in the Menomonee Valley this year. In June, Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 1721 W. Canal St., opened the first phase of its 500,000-square-foot, $240 million expansion. Additional phases of the expansion will be opened during the remainder of this year. The project includes two new restaurants, the relocation of the casino’s existing restaurants, The Buffet and Dream Dance, an additional 1,500 slot machines, 60 more table games and the addition of off track betting on horse and dog races. The casino is adding an additional 1,000 employees to work in the expanded gaming center.

The Harley Museum and the expanded casino should help fill hotel rooms in the Milwaukee area. To accommodate those visitors, more hotels will open in Milwaukee during the remainder of this year, and even more hotels are under construction or are expected to begin construction by the end of the year.

About three blocks south of the Harley museum, Milwaukee-based Dixon Development, is transforming a six-story, 95,788-square-foot, 101-year-old former warehouse building at 500 W. Florida St. into the 102-room boutique Iron Horse Hotel. The hotel is expected to open in early September. It will accommodate business and leisure travelers, but it will also have features (including covered motorcycle parking, rag bins, on-site bike wash and storage areas for boots and helmets) specially designed to accommodate motorcyclists.

Another hotel is expected to open in downtown Milwaukee in December. A 123-room Staybridge Suites hotel will anchor a 14-story building that Fort Myers, Fla.-based Development Opportunity Corp. is building at the southeast corner of Water Street and Juneau Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. The building also has 14,000 square feet of retail space, which will include a Qdoba Mexican Grill restaurant, and 31 residential condominiums.

Another hotel is under construction just north of downtown Milwaukee. Investors, Karl Rajani and Pat Kasthurirangaian, are renovating the 40-year-old, three-story, 30,018-square-foot former Jackson Center nursing home building at 1840 N. Sixth St. into a 79-room Days Inn & Suites hotel. The hotel is expected to open in 2009.

Several hotels have been proposed for the area around General Mitchell International Airport, but only one is currently under construction. West Bend-based American Design-Build and North Liberty, Iowa-based Kinseth Hospitality Companies are building an 82-room Sleep Inn & Suites hotel at 4600 S. Sixth St., Milwaukee, on a site about 1.5 miles from the west entrance to the airport. The hotel is expected to open in early 2009.

Four hotels in Milwaukee, including three near the airport, are doing major physical improvements and upgrading to higher-end brands. The 99-room AmeriSuites hotel at 200 W. Grange Ave. and the 123-room AmeriSuites hotel at 11777 W. Silver Spring Dr. are being converted to Hyatt Place hotels. The Ramada Milwaukee Airport Hotel & Convention Center, 6401 S. 13th St., Milwaukee, closed in February for remodeling and a conversion into a 194-room Crowne Plaza hotel. Another Crowne Plaza hotel opened earlier this year in Wauwatosa. Finally, the 508-room Four Points by Sheraton Milwaukee Airport hotel at 4747 S. Howell Ave., which was converted last year to a Wyndham hotel, will be remodeled, which is expected to begin later this year.

A new hotel opened recently on the far northwest side of the City of Milwaukee. Oshkosh-based WHG Companies LLC opened a 120-room Comfort Suites hotel at 10831 W. Park Place Drive.

More hotels are expected to be under construction in Milwaukee by the end of the year.

Chicago-based RSC & Associates plans to break ground near the end of this month on a Park East corridor development that includes a 122-room Hyatt Place hotel and a 102-room Hyatt Summerfield Suites hotel. The downtown site for the project is the vacant block bounded by East Lyon Street, East Ogden Avenue, North Jefferson Street and North Milwaukee Street.

Milwaukee-based Ruvin Development is planning to break ground on an Aloft hotel, on a vacant riverfront site northeast of Juneau Avenue and Old World Third Street in downtown Milwaukee.

Developers for a pair of major mixed-use downtown developments, which would include hotels, are hoping to break ground by the end of the year. Charlotte, N.C.-based The Ghazi Co. plans to build a large mixed-use development called Catalyst on a two-acre, vacant property at the southwest corner of North Fourth Street and Wisconsin Avenue, which would include a 160 to 170 room hotel. Meanwhile, Dallas-based Gatehouse Capital Corp. is hoping to break ground on a mixed-sue development, which would include a 176-room Palomar boutique hotel, for a vacant Park East corridor site northwest of Old World Third Street and Juneau Avenue.

Several other hotels are being built in the suburbs.

The biggest hotel project under construction in southeastern Wisconsin is the Deer Creek Inn & Conference Center, being built southwest of Moorland Road and Greenfield Avenue in New Berlin. Site work began recently for the project, which is being developed by Don Kitten. When complete, the seven-story, 1 million-square-foot building will have 405 hotel rooms, a conference center, an indoor water park, restaurants and retail space.

The massive Deer Creek hotel could have a significant impact on other competing hotels nearby,

“Brookfield is a fragile market to begin with,” Hanis said. “It’s made up of good hotels, but they’re older hotels. A new hotel is probably going to do well, but at the same token it impacts the market significantly.”

In addition, waterparks in the state, outside of the Wisconsin Dells area, are struggling. The state is “saturated” with them, Hanis said.

A five-story, 114-room Staybridge Suites hotel is being be built southwest of South 27th Street and West Ryan Road in Franklin by The Bricton Group Inc., a Park Ridge, Ill.-based hotel management company. The hotel is expected to open in the first quarter of 2009.

A Staybridge Suites hotel will also be built in the Pabst Farms development in Oconomowoc. Fitchburg-based S&L Hospitality plans to develop the 128-room hotel southwest of I-94 and Highway 67. A total of four to five hotels are planned at Pabst Farms. A Hilton Garden Inn opened in the development last year. Construction for the Staybridge Suites is expected to be complete in 2009.

Kenosha-based Bear Realty and Mills Enterprises are building a three-story, 90-room Candlewood Suites hotel northeast of 104th Avenue and 74th Street in Kenosha. The hotel is expected to open in August.

Other area development highlights:

The slumping U.S. economy has slowed commercial development, largely because developers are struggling to obtain financing as banks have tightened lending requirements creating a credit crunch. However, some major developments in the area are expected to begin construction, or will continue construction, during the second half of 2008.

Industrial development continues in the Menomonee Valley. A 160,000-square-foot facility is being built for Derse Inc., which will move to the valley from Wauwatosa, and a 160,000-square-foot facility will be built for Charter Wire.

A 485,000-square-foot regional distribution facility for GE Healthcare is under construction southwest of Moorland Road and College Avenue in Muskego.

Construction and demolition work continues for the redevelopment of the former Pabst brewery in downtown Milwaukee. Joseph Zilber, founder of Milwaukee-based Zilber Ltd., is redeveloping the brewery complex into a mixed-use urban neighborhood. He is selling several of the buildings in the complex to other developers.

Construction is progressing on Milwaukee-based Mandel Group Inc.’s North End development along the Milwaukee River in downtown Milwaukee. The first phase of the development, which will include 83 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space, is expected to be complete by the spring of 2009. Later phases of the development will include 395 condominiums and another 15,000 square feet of retail space. The entire development is expected to take 5 to 7 years to build out.

Construction also is progressing on Oak Brook, Ill.-based Renaissant Development Group LLC’s Park Lafayette project, a 20-story twin tower condominium development on Milwaukee’s east side. The project will have 280 condominiums and is expected to be complete in 2009.

Another large condo development, the 101-unit, 20-story BreakWater Condominiums project is also progressing. The condos, being developed by Peter Renner of Renner Architects, are now 61 percent sold, the company announced recently.

Kenosha continues to attract larger distribution centers including a 587,710-square-foot distribution center under construction southeast of 38th Street and I-94 for Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Gordon Food Service and a 692,000-square-foot distribution center under construction at 8410 60th St. for Norfolk, Neb.-based Affiliated Foods Midwest.

Construction is expected to begin this year for the new Uline Inc. corporate headquarters in Pleasant Prairie. Waukegan, Ill.-based Uline plans to move its headquarters to a new facility that will be built on a 200-acre site southwest of I-94 and Highway 165/Q. The facility will consist of 218,000 square feet of office space and 1 million square feet of distribution space.


West Development Partners LLC plan to build a 60,000-square-foot grocery store, a 5,000-square-foot retail building and a 5,700-square-foot retail building on a 5.5-acre site at 1701-1801 N. Mayfair Road. The property was previously the site of the Renner Kia/Mitsubishi auto dealership, which closed last year.

Cameryne Roberts and Sarah Jonas, the owners of Café LuLu in Milwuakee’s Bay View neighborhood, plan to open a restaurant called Juniper 61 at 6030 W. North Ave.

Oak Park, Ill.-based Flat Top Grill plans to open a restaurant at 2751 Mayfair Road. Flat Top Grill is a chain of stir fry restaurants with 11 locations, most in Illinois.


Rick Barrett, the developer for the proposed 30-story Moderne condo tower southwest of Old World Third Street and Juneau Avenue in downtown Milwaukee, and Tan Lo plan to open a New York style pizzeria, called Brick 3 Pizza, in the former Africa Hut building at 1107 N. Old World 3rd St. Africa Hut closed earlier this year. Brick 3 Pizza will only serve pizza, beer and soda, Barrett said. He and Lo plan to completely renovate the buiding’s façade. Barrett also said he has received reservations, with 5 percent deposits, for 14 of the Moderne’s 81 condominiums.

Rosen Automotive Group plans to build a 14,671-square-foot showroom addition, with a 2,470-square-foot mezzanine level, for its Rosen Kia auto dealership at 5575 S. 27th St. The property is located adjacent to the Rosen Nissan dealership in Greenfield.

Sweeney’s College Books plans to move from 1634 W. Wisconsin Ave. to 1400 W. Wells St., both locations are near the Marquette University campus. Sweeney’s provides textbooks and supplies for college students.

Scootalia Inc. plans to open a Planet Scooter store, selling mopeds and accessories, in an 1,800-square-foot space at 904 E. Center St. in the Riverwest neighborhood.

Mi Pais LLC plans to move its grocery store from 1401 W. Greenfield Ave. to 3911 W. Greenfield Ave., a space that has been vacant since the end of last year.


CORE Consulting LLC, a technical recruiting, training and design outsourcing firm, recently moved from Whitefish Bay to an 1870s historic home at 163 Green Bay Road in Thiensville. The company is leasing 3,500 square feet of space in the building, and an employee is leasing the 1,700-square-foot upstairs apartment. The company has a two year lease for the space with an option to buy after that said Matthew Buerosse, who owns the company with his partner, Jesse Daily. “It was an awesome space for the money,” said Buerosse. “There are a lot of cool shops and other businesses in the area.” The company has about 25 employees and is planning to add another 4 to 6 in the “next month or so,” Buerosse said.


Davies Water Equipment Co., a division of Ferguson Water Works, plans to move from Muskego to the Commerce Centre Industrial Park in the Town of Lisbon. The industrial park is located between Duplainville Road on the east, Highway 74 on the west and Lisbon Road (Hwy K) on the north. Davies Water will occupy 11,700 square feet of space in a 32,477 square foot multi-tenant building. Brookfield-based Briohn Building Corp. is the architect and contractor of the Davies Water Building. 


Northland Development Company plans to build an eight-building, 58-unit condominium development called Canterbury Court on a 7-acre site at 2233 W. Mill Road. The condos will be priced between $215,000 and $295,000, said David Cunningham, owner of Northland Development.The project could receive a grant of up to $400,000 from the state to redevelop the blighted property, which was formerly used for industrial purposes.




CB Richard Ellis

RSM McGladrey leased 6,950 square feet of office space at 411 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, from NNN 411 East Wisconsin LLC.

Medco Health Solutions Inc. leased 29,703 square feet of office space at N19 W24130 Riverwood Dr., Waukesha, from Decade 80-VI & Decade 80-IX.

EZ Money Wisconsin Inc. leased 1,850 square feet of retail space at 5600 S. 108th St., Hales Corners, from Country Fair LLC.

Subway Real Estate Corp. leased 1,417 square feet of retail space at 6007 W. Layton Ave., Greenfield, from Loretta Kleczka.

Andy An Ho leased 7,000 square feet of retail space at 3644 S. Moorland Road, New Berlin, from New Berlin Associates.

Dickman Company

Fastenal Company leased 8,000 square feet of industrial space at 940 Blue Ribbon Circle North, Oconomowoc, from Pabst Farms Commerce Center Unit 1 LLC.

Gerald Nell Inc.

New Horizon Title LLC leased 1,750 square feet of office space at 2525 N. 124th St., Suite 103, Brookfield, from G&N Investment Company.

Inland Companies

Prolitec Inc. leased 24,095 square feet of industrial space at the Canal Street Commerce Center located at 1301 W. Canal St., Milwaukee.

The Triumph Group leased 8,328 square feet of industrial space at Park View III located at W136 N5283 Campbell Drive in Menomonee Falls. 

Builders Association leased 2,500 square feet of office space at the West Allis Commerce Commercial Center located at 2006-2142 S. 55th Street in West Allis. 

Stifel, Nicolaus & Company leased 4,610 square feet of office space at Bayshore Town Center located at 5800 N. Bayshore Drive in Glendale.

All Care Dental Management leased 3,141 square feet of retail space at Mt. Pleasant Corners located at Hwy 20 and Hwy 31 in Mt. Pleasant.

Mr. Douglas Linski leased 1,342 square feet of office space at 727-733 N. Van Buren Avenue in Milwaukee. 

Judson & Associates

Liberty Dance Studio LLC leased 2,400 square feet of space at 404 Travis Lane, Suite 38, Waukesha, from Waucom Partners.

Gloria Kay Uniform Mart Inc. leased 4,792 square feet of space at 3720 N. 124th St., Wauwatosa, from KL 124th Street Partners LLC.

John Deere Landscapes Inc. leased 10,200 square feet of space at 21860 Watertown Road, Waukesha, from Brookfield Commerce Center.

Morgan Joseph & Company Inc. leased 574 square feet of space at 400 Genesee St., Delafield, from Randy Tiedt.

Mid-America Real Estate

Bella Sole Tan leased 20,000 square feet of space at Glenwood Crossings, at 30th Avenue and 18th Street, in Kenosha from Glenwood Crossing LLC.

NAI MLG Commercial

A unnamed tenant leased 2,472 square feet of space in Falls Commerce Center at W134 N5526 Campbell Dr., Menomonee Falls. Falls Commerce Center has 37,000 square feet of available space for lease.




CB Richard Ellis

OHR Hatorah Inc. purchased a 3,332-square-foot building at 7020 N. Green Bay Road, Milwaukee, from FJ Ladky & Associates Building Company.

CenterPoint Properties Trust purchased a 71,000-square-foot property at 5877 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Cudahy, from Benjamin Investments LLC.

Robert Botchek purchased 1.7 acres at W223 N608 Saratoga Road, Pewaukee, from S.E.D. Partners.

Colliers Barry

Guacamole LLC purchased the 17,800-square-foot office building at W223 N608 Saratoga Road, Pewaukee, from S.E.D. Partners.

Dickman Company

HB 3600 LLC purchased 176,000 square feet of industrial space at 3522, 3600 and 3620 N. 35th St., Milwaukee, from Murphy Real Estate LLC.

Rawson & Howell LLC purchased 8.83 acres at 200 W. Rawson Ave., Oak Creek, from Henry T. and Caroline E. Czarnecki.

Judson & Associates

Mickelson Invest LLP purchased 1.6 acres on Tamarack Court in Ixonia from Timberland Invest LLC.

Casey F. Gill purchased a 13,500-square-foot building on a one-acre site at 12450 W. Colfax Place, Butler, from Ben and Nancy Hohns.

Mid-America Real Estate

BR Acquisitions of Wisconsin LLC purchased 1.49 acres in Delavan Crossings Phase II at I-43 and Highway 50 in Delavan from Household Finance Corp III.

Bayside Development purchased a 0.76-acre outlot in front of Wal-Mart at Highways 57 and 23 in Plymouth.

NAI MLG Commercial

Living World Evangelical Lutheran Church Inc. purchased 3.3 acres of land on Saylesville Road in Waukesha from KW Waukesha LLC.


New construction


Brookfield-based Briohn Building Corp., was contracted by Ace Industrial Properties LLC to design and build a 485,000-square-foot regional distribution facility for GE Healthcare southwest of Moorland Road and College Avenue in Muskego. Briohn has also been contracted to design and construct a 4,075 square foot ballet studio for Milwaukee Ballet in the Brookfield Towne Centre, 3815 N. Brookfield Road, Brookfield.

Janesville-based J.P. Cullen & Sons Inc. was recently awarded a contract for a 21,000-square-foot renovation to Brookwood Elementary School and a 13,000-square-foot addition to Brookwood Middle School. The schools are in Genoa City. J.P. Cullen also received a contract to create a new front entrance for the Gordon Flesch Company in West Allis.

Waukesha-based Gerald Nell Inc. was selected by Destination LLC to design and build a two-story, 24,312-square-foot office building at the southeast corner of Highway 164 and Capitol Drive in Pewaukee. Jannsen & Co. S.C. will be the building’s primary tenant.

Oconomowoc-based MSI General Corp. was selected as the architect/engineer and construction manager for a 12,500-square-foot addition to the Merton Town Hall Library at N76 W31429 Highway VV, North Lake.

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