New building plan is sign of momentum for Century City

Business park home to nine employers, 500 workers

Conceptual plans for new Century City flex industrial buildings. Obtained from city records
Conceptual plans for new Century City flex industrial buildings. Obtained from city records

Last updated on October 25th, 2021 at 11:29 am

The plan for a second new flex industrial building at Century City is the latest sign the business park on Milwaukee’s northwest side is gaining momentum.

The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee on Thursday agreed to negotiate exclusively with a group led by Good City Brewing owner Dan Katt for the sale of the vacant site at 3055 W. Hopkins St.

Katt is exploring the possibility of developing a building similar to Century City 1, which he owns through Good Opportunity Fund 1 LLC. Century City 1 is fully leased, Katt announced recently.

His desire to build another facility comes from demand outstripping supply for modern industrial space in Milwaukee.

“Based on discussions with Dan and other development professionals, there’s high demand for new 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot industrial space(s) with high bays and loading docks,” said Benji Timm, a project manager with the Department of City Development. “Dan and his partners have been talking with small, local businesses with manufacturing and warehousing needs. Most of the interest has been from local food and beverage producers.”

Other interest comes from companies interested in establishing job-training and recruitment hubs, Timm said.

Although it took five years for the Century 1 building to be fully leased, it is a sign that things are coming together for the Century City business park. Officials say the uses there now match what the city’s initial objectives, and the market is driving the need for more space.

“I truly believe the potential for adding great companies to Century City – and providing additional excellent paying jobs for nearby residents – is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when,’” Alderman Khalif Rainey said in a recent statement. Rainey’s district includes Century City.

The five companies in Century City 1 employ about 20 people. They use the building for office, warehousing, light manufacturing and related purposes.

“This is exactly the type of flexible uses that we envisioned for the Century City 1 building,” Timm said.

About 500 people, most of which are Milwaukee residents, work at the Century City business park on a daily basis, Timm said.

“That is a statistic I don’t think is promoted enough,” RACM board member William Schwartz said of the jobs number. “People talk about it kind of being a wasteland, we haven’t done enough. That’s something to be proud of.”

Nine employers are operating in the business park, including Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works. The others are B83 Testing and Engineering, Craft Beverage Warehouse, Crown Castle, Good City Brewing, urban farm Hundred Acre, Klein-Dickert Milwaukee Inc., PAK Technologies Inc. and Talgo Inc.

Talgo, a Spain-based train manufacturer, in 2019 announced plans to add 63 jobs and expand its footprint at Century City.

A rail line plays a role in the city’s marketing of the business park, Timm said. Pak Technologies and Talgo use the rail line at Century City. Next to Molson Coors, Century City is probably the biggest rail user along the 30th Street Industrial Corridor, he said.

Timm compared Century City’s progress to that of the Menomonee Valley Industrial Center. The 60-acre site, a business park within the Menomonee Valley, was once thought of as one of the city’s biggest eyesores. It is now home to 14 businesses that have created more than 1,400 jobs, according to Menomonee Valley Partners Inc.

Like Century City, MVIC required a significant investment from the city to clear the site and prepare it for development.

“It took almost 20 years to fill up the Menomonee Valley Industrial Center,” Timm said. “Century City is on track to meet that timeline. If we get one big user to take up a large portion of the southern end, that would fill that.”

Milwaukee had the opportunity for such a user not long ago. Strauss Brands LLC once planned to move there from Franklin. But Rainey dropped his support for the proposal after pushback from residents and activist groups, and the company withdrew its plans. Franklin officials later endorsed a new Strauss Brands facility.

Milwaukee spent $24.8 million to create Century City through tax incremental financing. The TIF district has struggled to pay off those debts because it hasn’t generated enough new property-tax revenue. It required assistance from other overperforming districts to help pay off its debts, which the city incurred.

Katt’s group has one year to put together financing and formalize plans for the new industrial facility. Any future land sale would need approval from both RACM and the Milwaukee Common Council.

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Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.

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