Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:23 pm
Its five stories and 68,000 square feet of space sit vacant — a stark, boarded-up testimony to the dot-com industry’s demise.
The Pioneer Technology Center is now for sale, with an asking price of $2.2 million.
When Levin Properties Inc. acquired the old Pioneer Building at 625 N. Milwaukee St. in October 2000, the real estate development company marketed the downtown structure as the "hub of connectivity" for Milwaukee.
"Milwaukee’s first and only building dedicated to telecommunications and Internet connectivity between multiple carriers and users — the only true carrier-class telecom hotel building in Milwaukee," Levin Properties proclaimed about the property at the time.
The building was to undergo substantial rehabilitation and be at the interconnect between the high-speed fibers of the likes of SBC, AT&T, Norlight Telecommunications and Time Warner Telecom.
In fact, the building had lined up its first prime telecom tenant, Switch and Data Facilties Co., of Tampa, Fla., which intended to lease 19,000 square feet.
"That’s when everything collapsed. Switch and Data backed out in the 11th hour on a lease in early 2001," recalled Laurance Lewis, of CSS Inc., a Naperville, Ill.-based firm that was hired to find tenants for the Milwaukee building.
With the primary tenant no longer interested, Lewis scrambled, trying to find other tenants. One by one, telecom companies considered the building and came close to signing a lease. And one by one, they fell to bankruptcy in the collapse of the dot-com industry. Prospective tenants included Winstar Communications and Qwest Communications.
"And there were a couple of local companies that were interested, but we could never get anyone to the table with the meltdown of the telecom industry," Lewis said. "We couldn’t get the people out in Brookfield, Pewaukee or New Berlin to move downtown. We just never got anyone off the dime. … A lot of close calls, but nothing got over the hump. They (Levin Properties) obtained that building just as the telecom industry was melting down."
Even the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee Public Schools considered moving some offices into the building, but ultimately decided not to become tenants.
Today, the signs proclaiming the "Pioneer Technology Center" are still nailed to the boards that block the windows of the vacant brick building, which was constructed in 1870.
Although the building, which still has all of its high-tech connectivity advantages, is now for sale, Levin also would consider leasing out the structure, according to Bill Ochowicz, vice president of office properties for Siegel-Gallagher, Inc., the Milwaukee firm that is now marketing the property.
"At this point, if a telecom user comes along, that’s great, but we actually are marketing that building for sale or lease to alternative uses," Ochowicz said. "The good thing about that building is that it is totally gutted."
The building is zoned for office space, but its best use might be for a nightclub, because it has high ceilings, is not surrounded by residential properties and would fit in with the growing Milwaukee Street nightlife scene, Ochowicz said.
"You could do something pretty cool there," Ochowicz said.
The building also could be converted for "medium-priced" apartments or condominiums, he said.
Jan. 10, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee