Latino agency buys vacant Milwaukee Kmart


A former Kmart store at 2701 S. Chase Ave. in Milwaukee has been sold and will be refurbished to become a new education and training center for a nonprofit Hispanic advocacy organization.

UMOS (United Migrant Opportunity Services) has acquired the site for $2.6 million. The organization plans to move its headquarters to the 118,000-square-foot property later this year.

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The redevelopment of the vacant department store space also will include new retail space. UMOS is negotiating a new lease for the 21,000-square-foot Chuck E. Cheese’s Restaurant that remains at the site and intends to find additional retailers for 39,000 square feet of additional space, according to UMOS spokesman Rod Ritcherson.

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"It will look a thousand times better than the current Kmart structure looks now," Ritcherson said. "Basically, the property will be divided into three sections — commercial space, it will house our corporate headquarters and it will have a new education and training center.

"It will not be a charter school, but it may host some of UMOS’ many programs. We will also make the facility available to the community and corporations. We are very excited about this," Ritcherson said. "This is a chance to turn an old Kmart, drabby-looking building into something exciting for the community."

Ogden Commercial, a division of Ogden & Co., Milwaukee, is marketing the property to find commercial tenants for UMOS, said Jim Benz, an Ogden real estate broker. The triple-net asking rent rate is $10 per square foot.

The site had a 2003 assessed value of nearly $2.8 million, according to the Milwaukee City Assessor’s Office.

Sketches of the planned refurbished site show an improved facade, and the interior of the former Kmart space will be "torn apart" and remodeled, Benz said.

UMOS was founded in Milwaukee in 1965 to provide services to Hispanic migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Wisconsin. The company’s mission is to provide programs and services to improve the employment, education, health and housing opportunities of under-served populations.

UMOS operates programs to assist low-income people to gain self-sufficiency. In 2003, the organization received more than $83 million in federal, state and local sources to support its programs.

The agency purchased the former Kmart site from Malan Realty Investors Inc., a Bingham Farms, Mich-based real estate investment trust (REIT) that took ownership of the property when the store closed.

"We think there’s potential for UMOS to operate some type of educational facility there," said John Roberson, spokesman of Malan Realty Investors.

Renovations of the Chase Avenue site will begin later this spring, and the organization intends to move its headquarters to the refurbished complex this fall, Ritcherson said.

UMOS will vacate its current Milwaukee headquarters at 2607 S. 5th St. That site, which includes three buildings with a total of 18,000 square feet, is now listed for sale with an asking price of $985,000, Benz said.

Ogden also has an accepted offer from an undisclosed party to purchase a UMOS property at 929 W. Mitchell St., Benz said. The structure is a two-story former bank building.

In addition, Ogden is seeking tenants to lease another UMOS site at 1644 S. 9th St., a former grocery store that is currently an office and training facility serving clients in the Wisconsin Works W-2 program

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