Harbor District development site back on the sale block after purchase option expires

Wangard Partners said it tried exercising its option but was rejected by the city

Lot 4 of the Freshwater Plaza development, which Milwaukee has again put up for sale. (Courtesy: city of Milwaukee)

The city of Milwaukee is seeking proposals from those interested in purchasing and redeveloping a site in the Harbor District, after city officials said an existing option to purchase the site by a developer had expired.

The developer, Wauwatosa-based Wangard Partners, said it tried exercising its option but it was rejected by the city.

A request for proposals issued Friday identifies for sale a 88,800-square-foot parcel at 200 E. Greenfield Ave., currently owned by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee.

The site is located in the Freshwater Plaza development, which includes a 46,000-square-foot Cermak Fresh Market, a four-story, 76-unit apartment building with first-floor retail space and a Sherwin Williams paint store. It will also soon be home to a new Summit Credit Union branch.

“This is an opportunity to create a catalytic development on a key parcel in Freshwater Plaza with new opportunities to live, work and play in the Harbor District and Walker’s Point,” the RFP states. The asking price for the parcel is $1.9 million.

Wangard, the developer of Freshwater Plaza, had put forward plans to construct a six-story mixed-use building on the lot. The building would have included another 76 apartments, 45,000 square feet of commercial space and a parking structure. The site had also been identified for office development, though Wangard proposed going a different direction in late 2017. That decision put the developer at odds with the Department of City Development.

DCD Commissioner Rocky Marcoux said Wangard’s option to buy the parcel had expired.

“The option has expired and we are issuing an RFP for that parcel,” Marcoux said in an emailed statement.

The department declined to comment further on the matter.

Stu Wangard, chairman and chief executive officer of Wangard Partners, said his firm had all financing in place and was ready to close on the acquisition of the site.

“We exercised our option to the property,” he said. “The city said they wanted additional information, so they rejected the notice that we’re exercising our option.”

Wangard said he had two tenants lined up for the retail space in his firm’s proposed mixed-use building. One would have been a clothing store.

“We’re going to continue conversations with the city,” he said. “Obviously the commissioner has expressed his interest in seeing more office space in the area, and we feel it’s a wonderful site for mixed use. We’d also like to see The Hop (streetcar system) get extended to this location.”

Proposals are due back to the city by Sept. 30. The city requires with the proposals a project summary, preliminary development budget and preliminary architectural plans. The parcel is set up to allow a high-density compatible mix of uses, including residential, office, commercial and retail, the RFP states.

Also nearby this parcel is the former Solvay Coke & Gas Co. site, which is where Komatsu Mining Co. plans to build a new corporate headquarters and manufacturing campus. Plans related to that project, including a site plan, building elevations and a request to deviate from various design standards, have been submitted for consideration by city officials. The City Plan Commission on Monday endorsed those plans, though Common Council members will ultimately have to give their approval as well.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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