Downtown site once eyed for Johnson Controls tower is now for sale

City officials say prime real estate near the lakefront could still attract a corporate HQ

Last updated on January 21st, 2021 at 11:16 am

The downtown Milwaukee site that at one time had been considered by Johnson Controls for a new office tower, has been listed for sale by the state Department of Transportation.

The 2.66-acre site, located southwest of the intersection of East Clybourn Street and North Lincoln Memorial Drive, is a prime location near the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee with access to the Hoan Bridge and I-794.

The site has been appraised for $11.6 million, according to Mark Krause WisDOT statewide surplus land sales program coordinator. The property will have a list price as soon as the environmental studies have been completed, he said. As required by state statue, municipalities, counties, school districts and the Department of Natural Resources will be offered the property for 60 days before it is on sale to the general public.

“We’re anticipating a lot of interest,” Krause said. “We’ve already had several brokers ask for more information and hope that they have a client ready when we sell it.”

Rocky Marcoux, commissioner of the Department of City Development,  said the next step will be seeing what type of interest the listing generates.

“It doesn’t matter who owns the land, the question is what the state sells it for,” Marcoux said. “I’m not talking about money, I’m talking about use.”

Johnson Controls previously considered plans for an office tower on the site, which was freed up for development by the reconfiguration of the Lake Interchange. In 2015, Johnson Controls and city officials agreed to split the cost of a $500,000 feasibility study for building a tower on the site. However, the study never occurred and the project has not moved forward.

The site was one of the locations later pitched by the city to Amazon for its second headquarters, according to a source.

“We’ve been very specific about wanting a corporate headquarters or maybe high-end residential development (on the site), although we would prefer a corporate headquarters,” Marcoux said. “Highest and best use would be office. Either multi-tenant office or a headquarters.”

To date, the city has spent $24 million and the DOT has spent $16 million on the site as part of the Lakefront Gateway Project, which configured the Lake Interchange ramps to 794, extended Lincoln Memorial Drive south and extended Clybourn Street east to Discover World.

“My hope is we continue to work with the state to have a say in what is developed at this site,” Marcoux said. “I hope we approach this as a partnership and discuss any potential offer before going public. I know where we stand.”

Regardless of who the state sells the land to, the developer will have to go through city plan commission and the zoning committee before a project can move forward at the site.

A potential development at the site could still include Johnson Controls; however the company’s earlier considerations for the site were first discussed under former chairman and chief executive Alex Molinaroli, who left the company in September.


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