Menomonee Valley is a business magnet

Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley is providing an attractive business setting that is attracting some companies to move in from the suburbs. Employment in the valley has increased by 4,200 workers during the past 10 years, said Laura Bray, executive director of Menomonee Valley Partners Inc.

More employers are on their way to the valley. Recently Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes Inc. and J.F. Ahern Co. announced that they plan to build new facilities in the 60-acre Menomonee Valley Industrial Center (MVIC), located at the west end of the valley, just east of the Miller Park parking lots. J.F. Ahern Co. will build a 67,000-square-foot facility just north of Palermo Villa Inc. at 3301 W. Canal St., which will replace its Menomonee Falls operations, and Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes will build a 50,000-square-foot facility just west of Taylor Dynometer at 3602 W. Wheelhouse Road, and will relocate from St. Francis.

Other businesses in the MVIC that moved to the Menomonee Valley from the suburbs include Taylor Dynometer, which relocated from New Berlin, Derse, which moved from Wauwatosa, and Caleffi, which moved its North American headquarters to the MVIC from Franklin.

The addition of J.F. Ahern and Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes will mean that there is now only 8 acres available in the MVIC.

However, despite its success in attracting businesses, the Menomonee Valley as a whole still has numerous vacant and underutilized sites available for more development.

“We’re tracking 100 acres worth of (development or redevelopment) opportunities,” said Bray. “We’re still getting calls and interest (from businesses).”

Another suburban company that relocated to the Menomonee Valley is Zimmerman Architectural Studios Inc., which moved from two Wauwatosa locations and one Milwaukee office, consolidating its operations in a 30,000-square-foot building at 2122 W. Mt. Vernon Ave. in the valley. The building, constructed in 1903 for use in the coal gasification process, which provided gas to lights street lamps in the city, was dramatically redeveloped into a stunning office space. The building is part of a seven-building complex on a 25-acre property on the north side of the Milwaukee River, and southeast of West Greves Street and North 25th Street which Mallory Properties plans to redevelop into a business park called City Lights.

The location in the Menomonee Valley is appealing because of its central location, proximity to entertainment venues like Miller Park, and mix of different types of businesses, said Zimmerman president and chief executive officer Dave Stroik.

“(The Menomonee Valley is) just a good cross section of different types of people and different types of businesses,” he said.

Other developments in the Menomonee Valley are progressing.

Bilbao, Spain-based Ingeteam Inc. is completing its 140,000-square-foot production facility and office complex in the MVIC.

Earlier this year, Palermo Villa added a 110,000-square-foot addition, increasing the size of its facility to 245,000 square feet.

West Milwaukee-based Rexnord Industries LLC is planning a $35 million upgrade of its Falk Canal Street facility in the Menomonee Valley at 3001 W. Canal St. The project will include investments in equipment, facility maintenance, retrofits to transform the facility layout, IT upgrades, conversion to a SAP operating system and employee training.

Another project planned just outside of the Menomonee Valley could provide a development catalyst for the east end of the valley. The Milwaukee Water Council recently announced plans for a $20 million redevelopment of a 105-year-old, 98,000-square-foot warehouse at 223 W. Pittsburgh Ave. into a water research and business accelerator building. So far the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences, Bader Meter Inc. and A.O. Smith Corp. have indicated they plan to be tenants in the facility.

The building is located adjacent to the Reed Street Yards, a 17-acre vacant former rail and trucking yard located between the Harley-Davidson Museum and the Iron Horse Hotel at the east end of the Menomonee Valley. City officials hope to see the Reed Street Yards become a water technology business park and believe the Water Council project could provide the catalyst to make that happen.

“This is a very catalytic project for the Water Council and the city,” said Richard Meeusen, co-chair of the Water Council and chairman, president and CEO of Badger Meter.

Meanwhile, the Menomonee Valley Partners plan to add more amenities to the valley. Construction is expected to begin next year for a 24-acre park, featuring an extension of the Hank Aaron Trail through natural areas, on a narrow, inaccessible site located between the Menomonee River and rail lines along the southern edge of the valley. The site was formerly occupied by the Airline Yards rail switching yard. The park will provide access to the river and will be accessible via two new bridges, one connecting it with the Mitchell Park Domes and the other connecting it with South 33rd Court near Palermo Villa. The park is expected to open to the public in 2013.

In hopes of attracting more development in and around the valley the Menomonee Valley Partners and NAIOP will hold a real estate open house event, with a tour of the valley, on Thursday Sept. 29, from 4-7 p.m.

“We want to open the real estate community’s eyes to other (development) opportunities,” Bray said. “And we want them to look at other areas around the valley for residential, office and commercial development opportunities.”

“There’s a lot of promise, a lot of land, a lot of opportunity,” Stroik said. “I think the best (for the Menomonee Valley) is still ahead. You want to be in a situation with a good outlook, and this is about as good as it gets.”

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