Group seeking $1.4 billion for private commuter rail project

Most of funds would be used for real estate development

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:49 pm

A New York capital raising firm is helping a Wisconsin company attempt to raise more than $1.4 billion to support a private commuter rail project in metro Milwaukee along with related real estate development.

The project by Transit Innovations LLC would use existing freight lines to create the commuter system, called E-Way. The company says it would build 21 new stations and use two existing ones along 55 miles of track across Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.

Bombardier Transportation would serve as the rail operator, provide technical expertise and negotiate rail access leases with Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific railroads, according to an investor presentation.

Most of the capital, around 70 percent, would actually be used for real estate developments near the stations. Transit Innovations says developments would include market-rate housing, multifamily, retail, office, training facilities, mixed-use and manufacturing. The group estimates 7,000 units of new multi-family housing would be constructed.

Transit Innovations, which was created in 2017 and is registered to a Brookfield address, is working with New York based Castle Placement LLC to raise the funds. An investor presentation estimates $571 million will come from real estate investors, $300 million from rail investors, $35 million from partners and local private equity and $550 million from a construction loan.

The company includes two entities, Milwaukee Passenger Rail Co. for rail operations and Transit Oriented Development LLC for real estate activities.

The management behind the firm includes Brian Kliesmet as chief executive officer, Greg Dugan as president, Antonio Riley as transit oriented development member and Ken Benka as comptroller.

Klisemet is described in investor documents as having 34 years of experience in master planning and real estate development throughout the country. He has built more than $100 million in mixed-use and hotel developments throughout Wisconsin, the presentation says.

Dugan is a founding member of WESA Inc., a world-wide power and water marketing, engineering and construction consortium, and WEB International, a private equity firm specializing in the funding and coordination of infrastructure projects.

Riley is a former state assemblyman and was Midwest regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Chicago regional office from 2010 through January 2017.

Benka is described as the “chief architect of the MPRC and TOD financial assumptions” in the presentation and has worked with Kliesmet for more than 20 years.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.