Freshwater Plaza site work could begin this fall

Construction site work on Freshwater Plaza, the mixed use development project that Wauwatosa-based Wangard Partners plans to build northeast of South First Street and Greenfield Avenue in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood, could begin this fall.

The site work that could begin in upcoming months includes environmental remediation and utility work, said Mark Lake, director of retail development for Wangard.

“We’re still holding out hope we can break ground this fall,” said Joe Kleiman, a broker for Mid-America Real Estate, which recently began marketing the retail space in the project.

Wangard still needs to complete the entitlement process for the project, Lake said.

“The city has a lot of work to do, but the project could open in late summer or early fall 2015,” he said.

Wangard is also working to obtain financing for the project and is pursuing numerous funding sources, which could include tax incremental financing and new markets tax credits, Lake said.

“We’re looking at all financing sources right now,” he said.

The project will include a 42,000-square-foot Cermak Fresh Market grocery store, a 45,750-square-foot office building, an L-shaped building at the corner of First and Greenfield with 15,900 square feet of retail space on the first floor, 19,000 square feet of medical office space on the second floor and 66 apartments on the upper three floors, plus two small outlot retail buildings on First Street with a total of 6,600 square feet of retail space.

The apartments could be a mix of market-rate and subsidized affordable housing units, Lake said. Since Wangard is seeking new markets tax credits for the project the firm could be required to offer some affordable units, he said.

The plans also include a 226-space parking structure between the grocery store and the office building, 289 surface parking spaces, and a water feature along Greenfield Avenue.

The development site is just west of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences building, and is just east of the Rockwell Automation corporate headquarters.

“We’ve got a lot of excitement for (the project) right now and we’ve just started marketing it,” Kleiman said. “There’s a real lack of retail in that whole area.”

The site is located just 1.5 miles from the middle of downtown Milwaukee, between the Historic Third Ward and Bay View neighborhoods in the improving Walker’s Point neighborhood, Kleiman said. The area has a lack of grocery stores, he said.

“I think we’re going to attract a real diverse consumer over there,” Kleiman said. “It’s close enough that it will be able to draw from three directions.”

The site also benefits from high traffic levels on South First Street (18,400 vehicles per day according to Mid-America), and its location across the street from the Rockwell Automation corporate headquarters (with about 4,000 employees) and near the recently expanded University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences building at 600 E. Greenfield Ave.

“It’s right there in the center of things,” Kleiman said.

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