Development priorities for Milwaukee

In an age of austerity and limited fiscal resources, what should be southeastern Wisconsin’s priorities for commercial real estate and development?
Which projects would be the best investments for both public and private dollars and would generate the greatest returns for the community?

What needs to be done to move the projects forward?

A panel of four of the biggest players in the local commercial and residential real estate industries will discuss the answers to those questions at the ninth annual BizTimes Milwaukee Commercial Real Estate & Development Conference, which will take place on Thursday, Nov. 17, at Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 1721 W. Canal St., Milwaukee.

The panelists for the event are:

  • Gary Grunau, president of Milwaukee-based Grucon Group LLC. Grunau has been involved in some of the most significant developments in downtown Milwaukee during the last 25 years. He was the developer for the Hyatt Regency Hotel and for the ManpowerGroup corporate headquarters in downtown Milwaukee. He and two other investors purchased the former Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co. complex and redeveloped it into an office complex. Grunau has also been a major mover and shaker behind the scenes and played a significant role in convincing government officials to demolish the Park East freeway and to build the downtown Milwaukee Riverwalk and the Frontier Airlines Center in downtown Milwaukee. After his company, Grunau Project Development, was acquired by Providence, R.I.-based Gilbane Building Co. in 2003, Grunau worked as a senior vice president for Gilbane until 2009. While Grunau was with Gilbane the company built several major projects in the Milwaukee area including the Potawatomi Bingo Casino expansion in the Menomonee Valley and Discovery World on the lakefront.
  • Barry Mandel, president of Milwaukee-based Mandel Group Inc., a multi-family development and management firm. Mandel Group has developed and constructed more than $500 million in residential and retail developments and has financed, acquired and/or sold approximately $700 million of real estate. Projects completed by Mandel Group in Milwaukee include: University Club Tower, Marine Terminal Lofts, Gaslight Lofts, East Pointe Commons and East Pointe Market Place. The company is currently working on The North End development on the Milwaukee River in downtown Milwaukee. Prior to forming his company in 1991, Mandel was division partner for the Milwaukee division of Trammell Crow Residential.
  • James T. Barry III, president of Cassidy Turley Barry, one of the most prominent commercial real estate brokerages in Milwaukee, particularly for industrial real estate. The company, originally known as James T. Barry Co. Inc., was been involved in the real estate business in the Milwaukee area for 90 years.
  • Mike Mervis, vice president of Milwaukee-based Zilber Ltd., one of the most significant commercial property owners in southeastern Wisconsin and a major commercial and residential developer and property owner outside of Wisconsin. For years Mervis was the assistant for Zilber Ltd. founder Joseph Zilber, until Zilber passed away last year. One of the company’s biggest ongoing projects is the redevelopment of the former Pabst brewery in downtown Milwaukee. The company has also made significant industrial real estate investments in the I-94 corridor between Milwaukee and Chicago in recent years.

BizTimes Milwaukee conducted an exclusive survey of the members of the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin (CARW) to determine the priorities of the professional real estate development community. The results of the exclusive survey, including comments from the members, will be unveiled at the conference and discussed by the panel.

The hierarchy of the projects in the survey will provide critical feedback for public officials involved in planning and development. The full results of the survey, including remarks by CARW members and additional editorial content, will be published in the Nov. 25 issue of BizTimes Milwaukee magazine and will be posted online at

The panel discussion will be moderated by Professor Mark Eppli, Ph.D., the Robert B. Bell Sr. Chair in Real Estate at Marquette University. Eppli also will take questions for the panel from the audience.

The speakers for the opening remarks at the conference include: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Department of City Development Commissioner Richard “Rocky” Marcoux, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and CARW president Jim Villa.

The conference is presented by BizTimes Media LLC, in conjunction with the Commercial Association of Realtors of Wisconsin (CARW) and the Marquette University Center for Real Estate.

The BizTimes Commercial Real Estate & Development Conference attracts 400 to 600 people every year. The program will begin at 7:30 a.m.

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