After leasing space for nine years at the iconic historic Gas Light Building in downtown Milwaukee, IT consulting firm Octane LLC is moving to North Port Washington Road.
Octane owner Andy Hopkins said upscale renovations planned for the building and an insistence by the building’s new owner, Chicago-based real estate firm M & J Wilkow Ltd., that Octane sign a five-year lease is what is driving the company away.
“Our company brand is ’50s gas station – it’s cement and steel, not oak and mahogany,” Hopkins said. “This building never was a good fit, but it was economical. But (now) we’re facing a three-fold increase in rent and parking downtown has always been difficult.”
M & J Wilkow purchased the 131,727-square-foot Gas Light Building, known for its weather beacon “flame” lamp mounted on top of the building, for $20.5 million in April 2015.
Representatives from M &J Wilkow could not immediately be reached for comment to discuss improvement plans for the building. The building was renovated in the mid 2000s at a cost of nearly $3 million, according to JLL. Additional improvements done in 2013 and in 2014, including façade repair, security system and parking garage enhancements and electric system upgrades, cost about $310,000.
Octane had been leasing about 2,500 square feet at the Gas Light Building, 626 E. Wisconsin Ave., on a month-to-month basis for nine years. The company has 24 employees and plans to hire an additional 22 people over the next two years.
Hopkins said Ocatane had offers to move to Brookfield and the North Shore, but was committed to staying in the city of Milwaukee.
Octane will close on a two-story, 3,000-square-foot building at 4101 N. Port Washington Road later this month. On Tuesday, the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp. approved a $72,000 loan for the purchase.
Octane plans on renovating the first floor of the Port Washington Road building and using it for office space. Octane will lease out the second floor space, but as the company grows it will eventually renovate the second floor into additional office space for its own use, Hopkins said.
“The building has been a deli, a salon and a bar,” Hopkins said. “We’re going to bring stability to the building that it hasn’t seen in 50 years. We want to build a home for our company for the next 10 to 20 years.”