Mandel Group selected for Six Points development in West Allis

A rendering of the specialty food/brew pub area of Mandel’s development.

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 05:04 pm

Mandel Group is planning a $65 million mixed-use project on the east side of West Allis that city officials are hoping will be the economic development spark to finally put the community’s industrial past and often-negative public perception behind it.

Milwaukee-based Mandel’s project was selected by city officials as the winning bid in a request for proposals process for the site in the city’s Six Points neighborhood. The selection of Mandel Group’s project is subject to the approval of the West Allis Common Council.

A rendering of the specialty food/brew pub area of Mandel’s development.
A rendering of the specialty food/brew pub area of Mandel’s development.

The project, The Market at Six Points, will include 200 to 300 market-rate apartments in two three- to four-story structures and a two-story, 40,000-square-foot office building on vacant land between West National and West Greenfield avenues, east of South 66th Street (Six Points Crossing). Mandel Group says it has verified interest for the office space from a specific employer, which it will not name, that has been in operation for more than 30 years and has more than 30,000 employees at nearly 200 locations across eastern Wisconsin and Illinois.

Directly across the street, south of National Avenue, and across from West Allis’ renowned farmers market, Mandel is planning a cluster of food offerings. This will include a 20,000-square-foot specialty grocery store, two 7,000-square-foot specialty retail stores, a 6,000-square-foot brewpub, which will be operated by a “local, well-known brewery,” and another 5,600-square-foot restaurant. That parcel of land will also include eight 840-square-foot townhomes.

Mandel is expected to break ground on phase one of the project, which includes the brewpub, specialty grocery, restaurants and retail space, in July. Construction of the office building will begin in June 2017, and phase two, which is the residential portion of the project, will begin in April 2018.

Open from May through Thanksgiving, West Allis has the largest open air farmers market in the Milwaukee area. The market was one of the main drivers for Mandel Group to pursue the project and was the inspiration for the development’s design, said Robert Monnat, chief operating officer.

Plans also call for a 2,700-square-foot roofed kiosk next to the farmers market so there can be activity at the market year round. There will also be a designated area on the western portion of the existing farmer’s market for a “food truck court” that could attract local food trucks during busy weekends and during the holiday season.

“We want people on that farmers market block every day, every month of the year,” Monnat said. “This could include a Thanksgiving Market, a Kris Kringle Market, caroling and other winter activities. It is our intention to take the farmers market and turn it into an activity hub for the city, and in particular, the Six Points neighborhood.”

A rendering of the residential portion of the project.
A rendering of the residential portion of the project.

The concept brings together a farm-to-table and locally-sourced food and beverage lifestyle millennials are looking for, Monnat said. The location is also within walking distance of many of West Allis’ other restaurants and bars.

“People can walk out their front door, shop for food, stay for lunch, go to the retail shops; there are a lot of diversions,” Monnat said. “People ask, what’s the next Bay View? We really feel this part of West Allis has the same kind of character and the same kind of affordability that was crucial for Bay View.”

Mandel Group’s plans to incorporate the farmers market into its development caught the eye of city officials. The firm was one of six to submit a response to a request for proposals from the city to develop the Six Points neighborhood site.

Others to submit proposals in response to the RFP included Wauwatosa-based Wangard Partners Inc., Kenosha-based Bear Development LLC and Milwaukee-based Fiduciary Real Estate Development. The proposals ranged from $30 million to $62 million in value, with some developers proposing only residential and others proposing mixed-use.

West Allis Mayor Dan Devine said he liked the feel of a neighborhood within a city that the Mandel project creates.

“There were a lot of excellent proposals put forward, but I like the way (Mandel) saw the potential of our city,” Devine said. “They really seemed to capture the farmers market as one of the gems in our community and they harnessed that potential and saw it as an area where they could build from.”

The parcel is part of the city’s 44-acre Six Points/Farmers Market tax incremental financing district in the area between West Greenfield and West National avenues, between South 60th and South 67th streets.

The TIF was created in 1994 to eliminate and prevent the spread of blight experienced in the years following the closure of the Allis-Chalmers manufacturing plant.

The land was originally going to be developed by Milwaukee-based Toldt Development, which proposed more than $60 million in redevelopment over several years. Toldt completed several projects in the mid-2000s, but was unable to complete the entire development project it had planned, leaving a large area vacant.

In 2013, through provisions in the original purchase and sale agreement, the site was re-acquired by West Allis’ Community Development Authority at a substantially discounted value because of Toldt’s lack of performance.

Financing for Mandel’s project will rely heavily on new markets tax credits, Monnat said.

“Having West Allis as a proponent and a partner has been absolutely vital,” he said. “We’re able to bring the best kind of housing and retail to West Allis that would typically require rents as high as in downtown Milwaukee. West Allis, in their wisdom, was looking for a quality concept and knew they needed to figure out how to fill in the (financing) gaps.”

The residences in The Market at Six Points will range from studio apartments to three-bedroom apartments, with rents ranging from $950 to $1,750 per month. Fifty percent of the apartments will be 725 square feet, two-bedroom, one-bath and cost $1,200 per month.

Besides needing to figure out the financing for the project, Mandel Group determined it also needed to figure out a way to sell West Allis to the millennials to which it hopes to market the development. So Mandel has hired Ian Abston, the founder of NEWaukee, a social engagement organization that promotes Milwaukee to millennials, to let young professionals in the area know West Allis is…well, cool.

As an apartment developer, Mandel Group has two main groups it caters to – empty nesters and millennials. Monnat said the company’s executives understand the empty nesters, but need a little help with the younger generation.

“We thought Ian was a natural to add to the team,” Monnat said. “West Allis is still shaking off that old reputation of being the place where Allis-Chalmers was, even though 70 percent of people probably weren’t alive when it was here.”

Since leaving NEWaukee amicably in November, Abston has started his own consulting firm, Millennian LLC, where in addition to the work with Mandel, he has done multiple speaking engagements and signed on to help another developer, which he would not name.

As far as the West Allis project, Abston said the city gets a bad rap, but he believes he has the skills to market it and Mandel’s project to millennials.

“As millennials age, they’ll start to have a small kid, or two, and a dog and need more space,” Abston said. “Some will stay downtown but others will want to find a different place to nest, but won’t want to sacrifice community. Mandel has done a great job of finding places that have a great sense of community. I’m going to be working with them to promote the brand of West Allis and the future development.”

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