Milwaukee’s future water business hub

City officials have big plans for the Reed Street Yards, a 17-acre vacant former rail and trucking yard, which is surrounded by several key areas in Milwaukee that have attracted significant development in recent years.

Those city officials hope the time is right to begin work to redevelop and transform the vacant property into the heart of the region’s water technology industry.

“The final main goal of (a proposed tax incremental financing district for the site) is to assist in attracting water-related companies to the Milwaukee region and create a water technology and research park,” says the city’s project plan for the site.

The Reed Street Yards is located between South 6th Street and South 3rd Street, north of the properties along West Florida Street and south of a canal connected to the Menomonee River. The site has been vacant and quiet for years while surrounding areas have attracted numerous developments.

To the north and west of the Reed Street Yards is the Menomonee Valley. The Harley-Davidson Museum is directly to the north. In recent years several new developments have occurred to the west in the rest of the valley including the expansion of Potawatomi Bingo Casino and redevelopment projects that have attracted Derse Inc., Proven Direct Inc., Taylor Dynamometer Inc., Palermo Villa Inc. and others. In addition, an investment group led by developer Frank Giuffre plans to redevelop the former Milwaukee Gas Light Co. buildings, located southeast of North 25th Street and West Greves Street in the valley. Zimmerman Architectural Studios Inc. will move its headquarters to the first redeveloped building in that development.

To the south and east of the Reed Street Yards is Walker’s Point, which includes the city’s Latin Quarter district with several popular Mexican restaurants around South 5th Street and National Avenue. The Iron Horse Hotel is immediately to the south of the Reed Street Yards, as is an office building redeveloped by Ann Pieper in the former Allen D. Everitt Knitting Company factory at 234 W. Florida St.

Further east of the Reed Street Yards is the Fifth Ward area that has attracted several residential, retail and office development in recent years. To the northeast is the booming Historic Third Ward and further north and northeast is the downtown Milwaukee central business district.

City officials plan to create a tax incremental financing (TIF) district for the Reed Street Yards project and plan to use $6.5 million in TIF funds to help transform the vacant site into a business park.

But city officials don’t want just any businesses to be located in this business park at the Reed Streets Yards. They want water technology businesses. About $1 million of the TIF funds would be used specifically for grants and loans to attract water technology businesses to the site. In addition $900,000 will be provided for remediation and extraordinary site costs (the buildings may need deep foundations and vapor barriers due to soil stability issues). The remaining $4.2 million will be used for infrastructure costs.

“The (TIF) district will provide investments for potential water-related companies locating in the Reed Street Yards by defraying the costs of extraordinary site work, environmental remediation, lab space or other amenities and equipment necessary to attract water-related companies,” says the city’s project plan for the site. “(The developers) will agree to restrict the Reed Street Yards to water-related companies. This will allow the city and the Water Council to market the property to potential water-related companies.”

In recent years government, business and higher education officials have formed an initiative to build on the Milwaukee area’s strength in water technology industries. The Milwaukee area has 120 companies in the water technology sector and five of the 11 largest water technology companies in the world have a presence in the region. The Milwaukee 7 Water Council was formed in an attempt to attract more freshwater technology businesses to the area and to brand the region as the water technology capital of the world.

The Reed Street Yards could become the epicenter of that effort, if city officials can attract water technology businesses to locate there.

The Reed Street Yards TIF district would also include several vacant industrial buildings to the west of South Sixth Street, totaling about 280,000 square feet of space that were previously occupied by Pfister & Vogel Tannery.

The Reed Street Yards and the former tannery buildings are owned by Peter Moede of Milwaukee-based Atlas Development Corp., who under the redevelopment plan will partner with Fox Point-based General Capital Group LLC to develop and market the business park. Moede also owns and manages The Tannery office complex at South 7th Street and West Virginia Street.

City of Milwaukee officials recently unveiled preliminary plans for the proposed business park that would be built on the Reed Street Yards site. According to the plans, two new roads would be built through the property to connect it to the rest of the city street grid.

One new road tentatively called Reed Street would connect the intersection of South 3rd Street and Pittsburgh Avenue with the vacant tannery buildings. The city’s plans also include an extension of Oregon Street from the intersection of 3rd Street and Oregon to the vacant tannery buildings. A roundabout is planned at Pittsburgh Avenue and Reed Street.

The city also plans to add 2,700 linear feet of riverwalk along the Reed Street Yards and Tannery buildings.

The TIF funds will pay for public infrastructure, including water and sewer pipes, curbs and gutters, 70 percent of the cost for the riverwalk and half of the cost for dockwall repairs.

The city’s plans for the Reed Street redevelopment project include three conceptual site plans, a low-density, a medium-density and a high-density scenario. The scenarios call for 6 to 7 new office buildings with a total of 322,900 to 630,000 square feet of space.

The three scenarios have different parking plans with a mix of surface and structured parking. The low-density plan has 1,211 parking spaces, the medium-density plan has1,509 spaces and the high-density plan has 1,901 spaces.

The parking spaces will provide additional parking for the Iron Horse Hotel, the 234 W. Florida St. office building and other neighborhood properties.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display