DNR may move Milwaukee office from King Drive

    Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:39 pm

    State officials are thinking about selling the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Southeast Region headquarters at 2300 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Milwaukee and moving the office to another location.

    The 23-year-old, three-story, 89,880-square-foot building needs to be upgraded, and it would cost about $7 million to remodel it, said John Hagman, director of facilities for the Wisconsin DNR. Because of that cost, the DNR hopes to relocate to leased space elsewhere in the city, he said.

    The state has requested an appraisal of the DNR’s King Drive building to investigate market opportunities for the property, said Scott Larivee, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Administration.

    “This is in the study phase now as a possibility, but we have to make sure that any move from the building would make sense from a variety of angles before proceeding with any sale plans,” Larivee said.

    Leased space would be more cost-effective because the DNR would not be responsible for upkeep, Hagman said. The state agency could also gain one-time revenue from the sale of the King Drive property, he said.

    The decision about whether or not to sell the property will be made by the DOA, Hagman said.

    If the DNR moves the office, it would need to find a new location near a major transportation corridor, close to downtown Milwaukee and near a natural resource such as Lake Michigan or the Milwaukee, Menomonee or Kinnickinnic Rivers, Hagman said.

    Although the DNR does issue a fair number of fishing and hunting permits and licenses from the King Drive location, it serves far more commercial and industrial customers.

    “King and North (Avenue) does not bring a lot of walk-up customers,” Hagman said. “And the industrial community needs a lot of permits.”

    The King Drive site would be a perfect place to develop retail stores, potentially with apartments or condos above them, said Teig Whaley-Smith, executive director of the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District. The King Drive BID’s coverage area includes the DNR property.

    The property is at the intersection of West North Avenue and King Drive, an area that has seen increased redevelopment in recent years. The DNR’s parking lot will be an asset to the property, Whaley-Smith said, because of the developing Bronzeville District nearby along North Avenue.

    “The question is not what type of development, but whether it will be new construction or rehabilitation,” Whaley-Smith said. “If the DNR is reasonable with its sale price, there will be no problem attracting a developer. The opportunity to have the land available is very exiting. We love the DNR, and we wish they would stay. But if there is a better location for them, we can find someone to take their spot.”

    City of Milwaukee officials say state involvement in any redevelopment of the site will be very important.

    “Any plan for this landmark building and the developable space around it should include a continued, if not enhanced, presence from the State of Wisconsin,” said Milwaukee Department of City Development Commissioner Richard “Rocky” Marcoux. “These jobs are critical to the local economy and will assist in the ongoing revitalization of the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and North Ave corridors while supporting nearby developments in Bronzeville.”

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