Long awaited demolition underway at former Solvay Coke site

Property will be sold at bankruptcy auction within 60 days

Former Solvay Coke site being demolished. Photo by Harbor District Inc.

Demolition started this week on a 47-acre waterfront parcel in Milwaukee’s Harbor District in Walker’s Point after a nearly two year battle between the city and its owner.

Former Solvay Coke site being demolished. Photo by Harbor District Inc.
The former Solvay Coke site being demolished. (Photo by Harbor District Inc.)

Asbestos was removed last week from the former Milwaukee Solvay Coke & Gas Co., 311 E. Greenfield Ave., and demolition of the remaining buildings started this week, said David Misky, assistant executive director of the city’s redevelopment authority.

“Everything should be gone by next week,” Misky said. “We’re getting closer to moving this forward.”

The City of Milwaukee has been trying to get the property owner, Golden Marina Causeway LLC of Lisle, Illinois, to demolish the buildings since 2014. It even took the owner, Lawrence Fromelius, to court in February.

At the same time, Golden Marina Causeway filed for bankruptcy.

At this point, Formelius owes 40 creditors money, Misky said. Within the next 60 days, the Solvay Coke property, which is now being held by a court-appointed receiver, will be sold at auction.

The city will not bid on it, but will be involved in what gets developed there, Misky said.

There are seven structures on the Solvay Coke property–five buildings and two smoke stacks, plus a few foundations left from prior buildings.

The site, valued at $3.5 million, has long been eyed for redevelopment.

In 2003, Golden Marina Causeway wanted to develop a $1.5 billion, mixed-use complex of 14 20-story towers on the site. But that project never moved forward and the site has remained vacant for years.

“We’re hoping a developer with a reputable reputation will follow through with a development that fits the plan for the area,” Misky said. “We’re anxious to see what transpires over the next 45 days or so.”

Ideally, the site will be used to create jobs, Misky said.

“There are planning efforts underway to determine the best reuse of the property, but my thinking is a good portion could be manufacturing, and possibly some commercial,” Misky said. “It’s zoned industrial. Job creation is what we are looking for.”

Now that new developments are underway in Walker’s Point, is even more important to clear the property, which is between First Street and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences, 600 E. Greenfield Ave., for redevelopment.

Harbor District Inc., a nonprofit organization formed last year by the city, has been working to improve the inner harbor, which includes roughly nine miles of waterfront access including Jones Island and is bordered by South First Street, East Bay Street and East Pittsburgh Avenue.

This site is one of the biggest opportunities in the Harbor District, if not the city, said Lilith Fowler, executive director of Harbor District Inc.

“Its long waterfront offers Milwaukee a chance to showcase its strength as the ‘Freshwater Capital’ and its size and central location give us a chance to realize community visions for the area that include a mix of uses with jobs and waterfront access,” Fowler said.

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