James Barry Jr., chairman of The Barry Co., dies at 85

Represents second generation of family-owned real estate firm

James Barry Jr. (Photo courtesy of The Barry Co.)
James Barry Jr. (Photo courtesy of The Barry Co.)

James Barry Jr., chairman of The Barry Co. and a force in Wisconsin commercial real estate, died on Tuesday at the age of 85.

Barry joined The Barry Co. in 1959 and assumed leadership of the company in 1964. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, he saw what the future held for southeastern Wisconsin commercial real estate with the completion of the freeway system and businesses began migrating to the suburbs, according to a company news release. He began identifying and assembling land for modern industrial, office and business parks.

Barry’s efforts led to the sale of thousands of acres in various new development areas, such as the New Berlin Industrial Park, Bishops Woods Office Park and Moorland Industrial Park. He assembled and developed business parks for more than a dozen southeastern Wisconsin municipalities.

He was also involved in many high-profile real-estate transactions in the state, including the assemblage of land for what is now the U.S. Bank Center in downtown Milwaukee; the re-purposing, leasing and sale of the former Allis Chalmers complex in West Allis; and the handling of nationwide real estate assignments for clients that included Johnson Controls, Snap-on Inc., Rockwell International, MillerCoors and Harley-Davidson.

He was born in Milwaukee and graduated from the University of Notre Dame and University of Wisconsin Law School.

“My father had the great gift of truly loving what he did, as well as seeing it as his vocation in life,” James Barry III, president of The Barry Co. and son of Barry, said in a statement. “In addition, he was deeply devoted to the Milwaukee community, not only as a business leader, but also as an engaged civic leader with a wide array of involvements.”

James Barry III, with his brothers Kevin and David, represent the third generation to lead the 98-year-old company.

James Barry Jr. served as president of the Milwaukee Board of Realtors and director of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors. He additionally served as a director of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, and an advisory board member of the College of Letters and Sciences at University of Notre Dame, UW Center of Urban Land Economics Research and the University of Wisconsin Law School.

His accolades through SIOR include two “Most Ingenious Transaction” awards, one for the sale of a Pabst Brewing Co. property in Peoria, Illinois, and the other for his help in structuring a transaction for the Gisholt division of Giddings & Lewis in Monona and Madison. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from SIOR for his more than 50 years involvement in commercial real estate.

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.