Hope in the Central City

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 am

While most Milwaukee developers are concentrating on projects downtown or in the Third Ward, Bay View and other hot spots, Keith Terry is thinking about the central city, an area many developers avoid. One of Terry’s several titles is chief executive officer of Garfield Park Development LLC. As CEO of that firm, Terry is planning to redevelop a four-story, 99-year-old, 95,000-square-foot former industrial building at 2200 N. 31st St., which sits between North and Garfield avenues, into a commercial and residential complex.

Work at the site is expected to begin this spring and it is expected to be complete by summer 2007.

Terry already has redeveloped several commercial and residential properties in the central city. He still owns and manages most of the properties, including business locations in the 3000 and 4400 blocks of West North Avenue and the 4600 block of West Burleigh Street.

Terry bought the property on 31st Street for about $296,000 in 2000. He estimates that once the parcel is redeveloped, it will be worth $6.8 million.

When complete, the building will have 42 residential units – six condominiums and 36 apartments. It also will have about 40,000 square feet of commercial space, divided into six different spaces.

Terry’s plan includes adding a fifth floor to the building, where he plans to construct the two-bedroom, split-level condos. The condos will be priced in the low $200,000 range, and Terry compared the quality of the condos he’s designing to similar designs in the downtown area that are selling for more than $400,000.

The building is part of the Walnut Hill neighborhood, a near-northwest side area that Terry thinks has great development potential. From the roof of his building, where the planned condos would be built, downtown Milwaukee’s skyline is easily visible, along with Miller Park and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee..

"When I saw the building for the first time, I saw this huge Cream City (brick) building like they have in downtown and in the Third Ward," Terry said. "I said, ‘Why can’t this happen here?’ when I saw the view."

After meeting with some of his mentors in the development and financial sectors, Terry was told that the development wouldn’t be viable because of illegal dumping, drugs, prostitution and other criminal activity in the neighborhood. But after about five years of improvement, Terry believes the neighborhood is now ready for the development.

"Right at the beginning, we decided to deal with the issues of crime, prostitution and drug dealing," he said. "It took as long as it has to get to the point where other people can start to see the vision I see. I believe in the market in the area."

Plans for the condos are still evolving, but Terry wants them to include patios. Condo residents also will have parking spots in the building’s lower level. There will be spillover parking in a gated lot to be located behind the building.

The apartments will range in size from 872 to 2,300 square feet, and each unit will have its own balcony. Rents will range from $875 to $1,375 per month.

The first floor of the redeveloped building will house commercial space. Terry said he’s planning to redevelop the space to the "white box" level, with bare floors and primed walls, ready for tenants to develop as they need it.

"Once I do white box there, I have two tenants ready to go," Terry said.

Most of the space in the building is currently vacant. The only current tenant is Questions night club, located along the North Avenue frontage. The night club currently occupies about 7,200 square feet of space.

Terry is planning to build space to hold a sports bar and banquet facility next to Questions. That space would enter the building next to the night club and will be able to use an existing patio area for a beer garden.

Devon Reid, owner of Questions, is planning to open the sports bar.

Terry is also planning to make some improvements to the roof area above Questions, where he wants to create a park-like setting that could be used for outdoor jazz performances in the summer, fireworks viewing at night and could even be rented out for outdoor weddings and celebrations.

The rooftop space will be similar to what is currently offered at the Park East Hotel downtown, Terry said. While the location is in Milwaukee’s central city, the second floor roof offers great views of downtown and the east side.

"We will host annual events that kick off the celebrations and show off what we have to offer at the roof at 31st and North Avenue," he said.

The rooftop space will also offer opportunities for Questions, Reid said.

"The roof (idea) is wonderful," Reid said. "It will give us a lot of opportunities to host parties and do things there. I can’t wait to see the finished product there."

Terry has received a $350,000 brownfield grant to help him clean up some of the known contamination on the site, which formerly housed a window and sash manufacturing operation.

"Because of the brownfield (grant), I can use it for lead paint and asbestos abatement and sandblasting," Terry said.

Terry is currently working with the 30th Street Industrial Corridor Corporation to apply for additional grants to help clean up contamination at the property.

In addition, he has hired Ken Konicek, a certified hazardous materials manager with Port Washington-based Konicek Environmental Consulting LLC, to help him plan the redevelopment.

The City of Milwaukee is also currently investigating two parcels adjacent to Terry’s property, to determine how much environmental contamination is there, Konicek said. Terry said he’d like to buy those properties to use as parking and green space for the building, but he needs to know how much contamination he is dealing with before he commits to buying them.

Terry said he may approach the city for some potential funding assistance, possibly including a tax incremental financing (TIF) district.

The project on 31st Street would be perfect for TIF funding because of its blighted area, Terry said. The site currently sits in a neighborhood that sorely needs improvement, and a project such as his could help spur additional redevelopment there.

"My understanding of TIF funding is that it is (intended) to put brownfield properties back into a functional state," Terry said. "I think the project is one worth considering, because I think it speaks to all of the things the statute speaks to for uses of TIF funding."

Garfield Park Development LLC

CEO: Keith Terry
Web site: www.keithbterry.com

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display