Milwaukee officials hope to attract Kohl’s HQ

At a recent Milwaukee Press Club forum, held at Marquette University, on the future of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said they would work together to try to convince Kohl’s Corp. executives to move the company’s corporate headquarters to the Park East corridor in downtown Milwaukee.

“Ordinarily we don’t talk about these types of negotiations, but obviously Kohl’s would be a great fit for Milwaukee,” said Jodie Tabak, spokeswoman for Barrett. “We can assure you that Kohl’s management knows how much we would like them here.”

One source said city officials are comparing Kohl’s to Target Corp., which has its corporate headquarters in downtown Minneapolis.

Target has always had its headquarters in downtown Minneapolis, said spokeswoman Sarah Van Nevel. Target has 10,000 employees in downtown Minneapolis. The company moved into its current headquarters complex in late 2001 and early 2002, where it occupies a 32-story building and a 14-story building with a total of 1.5 million square feet of space. The company also occupies 1 million square feet of space in another building in downtown Minneapolis, where its headquarters was previously located.

“Our downtown headquarters location offers team members a variety of transportation and dining options, a central location, and a number of other amenities that help Target attract and retain a large, diverse, quality workforce,” said Van Nevel. “Target is proud to be part of the fun, fast-paced culture of downtown Minneapolis.”

Kevin Mansell, the chief executive officer of Menomonee Falls-based Kohl’s Corp., recently told reporters that the company will consider all options for a location for its new corporate headquarters. Those options could include sites in Menomonee Falls, sites in other communities, including downtown Milwaukee, and sites in other states.

Previously, Kohl’s executives appeared focused on building a new corporate headquarters in Menomonee Falls. Earlier this year, several construction industry and commercial real estate sources told BizTimes Milwaukee that Kohl’s was working on a plan for a new corporate headquarters with more than 1 million square feet in the Woodland Prime office park, located northwest of U.S. Highway 41/45 and Good Hope Road.

Kohl’s executives have had several closed-doors meetings with Menomonee Falls village officials who declined to disclose any information about the project. Village officials negotiated with North Hills Country Club, located adjacent to Woodland Prime, about purchasing the country club property for the Kohl’s headquarters project. However, the village recently broke off those negotiations. Some commercial real estate sources say the end of negotiations between village officials and the country club has likely made Kohl’s executives step back to consider all options for its corporate headquarters project.

If City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County officials are pushing Park East corridor sites for Kohl’s, one possibility would be the project proposed by Rainier Properties LLC, which includes developers Bruce Westling and Gary Grunau, along the Milwaukee River and northwest of Water Street and McKinley Avenue.

Westling said it would make sense for Kohl’s to move some of its headquarters operations downtown including its corporate executives, real estate development and fashion operations. Employees and visitors could take advantage of downtown hotels and other cultural amenities, he said.

“There are so many people that come to visit Kohl’s on a regular basis,” Westling said. “We think a downtown location would be a great way to showcase the company and the city. With so many things downtown to show off, why wouldn’t you?”

Kohl’s would probably maintain some back officer operations in Menomonee Falls, Westling said. Kohl’s current headquarters is a 885,000-square-foot complex at N56 W17000 Ridgewood Dr., just off Silver Spring Drive, in Menomonee Falls.

“There’s no way they would bring everything downtown,” Westling said. “(But) I think there are portions of their presence that would be a great fit for downtown Milwaukee.”

Westling declined to comment when asked if Rainier Properties was engaged in discussions with Kohl’s.

“We talk with everyone who is in the market,” he said.

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