Developer ponders high-rises in West Allis

    Richard Carlson isn’t done with his plans in West Allis. The Whitnall Summit Co. president who converted a portion of the former Allis-Chalmers manufacturing complex into Summit Place, a thriving real estate venture, is floating an even grander idea of development.
    Carlson is exploring the notion of developing several 20-story mixed-use buildings, each of which would take up an entire city block in West Allis.
    His concept calls for a building with 32,400 square feet of retail space, 68,400 square feet of office space on the second and third floors, 102 condominiums on the upper 17 floors and 324 underground parking spaces.
    Carlson thinks five or six such buildings could be built in West Allis. His concept calls for the first building to be constructed on the block bounded by Greenfield Avenue on the north, 70th Street on the east, 71st Street on the west and Orchard Street on the south.
    "It’s going to be (built)," Carlson said. "It’s just a matter of when. I really believe that."
    Carlson said he is unsure about the roles role he and his company would play with such a development, but he says his firm is not large enough to build five or six 20-story buildings.
    However, he wants to make the idea public to see if other developers are interested. Whitnall Summitt could partner with a larger developer for a high-rise development in West Allis, Carlson said.
    "I’m just floating the idea out there," he said. "I’m trying to generate interest. It takes a visionary to do it. We’re not big enough to do it on our own. We don’t have to be involved. Or, we could be a little bit."
    At Summit Place, Carlson noticed that his fourth-floor tenants enjoy a nice view of the downtown Milwaukee skyline and, on a clear day, they can see Lake Michigan.
    He thinks a high-rise, mixed use building can be a success in West Allis, because many residents might be interested in more affordable condos than they can buy in downtown Milwaukee. In West Allis, they’d still live in an urban environment in condos that offer a view of the downtown skyline and Lake Michigan.
    "I think they will be more affordable (than downtown condos). I’m not saying low-cost, though," Carlson said. "Middle- to upper-income (residents). The finishes would be of high-quality."
    Carlson said he has met with a national real estate development firm based in Washington, D.C., which he declined to name, to see if they are interested in the project. Representatives of that firm will visit West Allis later this month to access the project and other development possibilities.
    "I’m showing them everything in the neighborhood," Carlson said. "It’s very, very preliminary. I don’t know if they’re the right ones for sure. But, they’ve got the wherewithal."
    Carlson hired Renner Architects to do a conceptual drawing for a 20-story West Allis high-rise. He has also discussed his high-rise concept with West Allis city officials and members of the Downtown West Allis Business Improvement District.
    "I think it’s exciting," said Mayor Jeanette Bell. "It’s the kind of idea that challenges our thinking. I just think we have never thought of a building being that tall in our community."
    Unlike suburbs further away from Milwaukee, West Allis is land-locked and fully developed. The only way the community can grow its tax base is by redeveloping old properties and building larger structures to replace smaller ones.
    "There’s no room to grow out, we have to grow up," said city development director John Stibal.
    West Allis’ central location in the metro area has been a key to attracting tenants to Summit Place and could help attract residents to a high-rise condo tower, Stibal said.
    "This new concept is even further outside the box (than Summit Place)," Stibal said. "It’s so new, it’s still evolving. But with Dick Carlson, the evolutionary process goes a lot faster."
    The development Carlson is suggesting would fit in with the recent new urbanism trend in which people live in dense, mixed-use areas close to work and entertainment destinations, Bell said. The redevelopment of the Six Points area, located between S. 65th Street, S. 66th Street, W. Greenfield Avenue and W. National Avenue, will include 600 condos and apartments in a new urbanism approach.
    "We are an urban community," Bell said. "We are slowly, slowly trying to improve our image and recreate ourselves. We’re looking at a higher and better use of our land. There is no reason we can’t have high-rise buildings outside of downtown Milwaukee."
    Medico-Mart plans to move its headquarters from the City of Milwaukee to a 17,115-square-foot, one-story warehouse the firm plans to build in Waukesha, said city planner Mike Hoeft. Medico-Mart president Jerry Walsh Jr. could not be reached for comment. Medico-Mart’s current headquarters are at 317 N. 76th St. in Milwaukee. Medico-Mart offers a line of medical/surgical, laboratory and pharmaceutical products for doctor’s offices and clinics in Wisconsin, northern Illinois and southeastern Minnesota. The firm has a vaccine division and a tissue locating service, which serve the continental United States.
    The Pabst Farms development is helping trigger the development of a piece of vacant land nearby. Bank Mutual Corp. is planning to develop 350 acres of Oconomowoc land the firm obtained in the late 1980s, when it acquired Family Financial Savings Bank. Bank Mutual has held the land since then, but believes the time is right to develop it, said president and chief executive officer Michael T. Crowley Jr. Recently, Bank Mutual sold a half interest in the land to Siepmann Development. Siepmann and Bank Mutual plan to develop the land into an upscale subdivision of 150 residential lots, with lot and home prices starting at $400,000 to $500,000, Crowley said. Much of the land will remain as open space. The plans still must be approved by Oconomowoc officials. The property is located between the Oconomowoc River and Valley Road, about one mile west of the Pabst Farms development. The city is preparing to extend sewer and water services to the property soon.
    West Milwaukee
    Guardian Credit Union recently moved its West Milwaukee branch from 4219 W. National Ave. to 4501 W. Greenfield Ave.
    Arby’s plans to build a restaurant at 5800 75th Street, near a Pick ‘n Save store that opened recently.
    Developer Stephen Mills plans to develop a 8,740-square-foot strip mall at the southeast corner of Highway 50 and 60th Avenue. It will be the second phase of Speedway Plaza Place. The first phase of Speedway Plaza Place was about 10,000 square-feet and was built about five years ago.
    Developer Darwin Greenwald plans to build a 40,000-square-foot, multi-tenant retail center on the east side of Highway 83, north of the Pick ‘n Save store and south of the McDonald’s Restaurant.
    Judson & Associates is building a 44,000-square-foot, multi-tenant office/warehouse building at 25000 Watertown Road. The tenants in the building can either rent space or purchase the space as a commercial condominium. Judson is targeting small businesses interested in owning 2,500 to 5,000 square feet of space. "It’s hard to find anything under 5,000 square feet for sale," said Jeff Hoffman, vice president of Judson & Associates. "We run into a lot of these guys that want to own, but they can’t afford a big building." Most business parks do not allow firms to buy small lots to build small buildings he said. The commercial condominium concept is common in other parts of the country, but it is fairly new to the Milwaukee area, Hoffman said. "This area is starting to run out of land, and land prices are getting higher," he said. "Real estate prices have gotten so high, it has priced small users out of the market."
    Lake Geneva
    St. Charles, Ill., residents Terrence and Brunhilde Bucki plan to open a Bed and Breakfast at 325 Cook St.
    Andrew Weiland is the managing editor of Small Business Times. Send news about commercial real estate to or by calling him at (414) 277-8181 ext. 120. News can also be sent to Andrew Weiland, Small Business Times, 1123 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202.
    November 12, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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