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The new owners of Schlitz Park aim to create a modern, connected office campus.
By early next year, the 32-acre, five-building office campus, located southeast of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and West Pleasant Street, just north of downtown Milwaukee, will have undergone $6 million in renovations.
“We think there are some great things with the campus, and there were also some things that we wanted to change,” said John Coury, principal of Schlitz Park co-owner Crestlight Capital.
A joint venture of Detroit-based Crestlight and San Francisco and Forth Worth, Texas-based TPG Real Estate acquired Schlitz Park in early 2019. The firms have since embarked on renovations and updates to the campus. The work is already underway and is slated to finish sometime in the first quarter of 2021.
The renovations will accomplish several goals: respecting its history as the former Schlitz brewery, increasing connectivity and wayfinding throughout the campus, and enhancing its food and beverage offerings, Coury said.
A major focal point of the renovation work is the Crossroads Plaza, Schlitz Park’s new “campus epicenter.” It will include a pedestrian plaza, second-story bridge from the RiverCenter building and new direct entrances from RiverCenter and the Bottle House building.
A draw to Schlitz Park has long been its ease of access, ample parking and its unique tie to the community and Milwaukee’s history, said Mike Wanezek, partner with Colliers International|Wisconsin. Colliers is handling the leasing of Schlitz Park.
A modernized Schlitz Park will now emphasize walkability and connectedness.
Right now, if employees working in the Stock House or Bottle House buildings want to access the river, for example, they have to walk through parking lots or an uninviting loading dock area on the backside of the RiverCenter building, Coury and Wanezek said.
“Tenants now want to be able to walk as much as possible,” Wanezek said. “How do we create that at Schlitz, so you’re not going through different parking lots but feel like you’re actually going through a well thought-out campus? That’s what we strove to do with the improvements.”
The work also includes updated tenant spaces and common areas, such as the multiple RiverCenter tenant lounges that will include an assortment of games, TVs and other entertainment options. The RiverCenter café and the Brown Bottle restaurant are also getting face-lifts, with new menus and a pop-up café with rotating food options to boot. This is the product of Schlitz Park’s new partnership with F Street Hospitality, a division of Milwaukee-based F Street Group.
The new tenant lounges are reflective of what tenants are looking for in a modern office environment, Coury said.
“One of the things that modern tenants want today is … people really want a third place,” he said. “You can work, you can head home, but there’s also a relaxation place kind of in the middle. You maybe just want to take some time off in the middle of the day, play a game, get a cup of coffee, bring your lunch, shoot some pool. And we wanted to open that up for all tenants of the campus to be able to enjoy.”
The changes to food and beverage offerings are also reflective of tenant desires, Coury said.
F Street Hospitality replaced what was a collection of vendors, bringing all operations under one roof. Schlitz Park terminated its relationship with its former foodservice providers, Coffee With a Conscience, Davians and the former general manager of the Brown Bottle.
“We think it’s most efficient to have one food and beverage provider throughout the entire campus,” Coury said. “It just creates efficiencies versus having three separate ones.”
He added that Scott Lurie, founder and president of F Street Group, had a vision for the food and beverage offerings that was “very similar” to the ownership team.
Schlitz Park is also in an area that’s undergoing revitalization. Nearby is the Bucks’ Deer District, an eight-block area with the Fiserv Forum at its center. Then there’s the number of multi-family developments that have occurred in recent years just east of the Milwaukee River.
The growth that the area surrounding Schlitz Park has been experiencing was what led Crestlight and TPG to purchase the campus, Coury said.
“Employers want to be by the talent, and that’s where the majority of young talent lives; they live in that Water Street to Brady Street, the East Side, area,” Wanezek said. “Being able to walk to the Bucks’ Deer District — huge positive. And you couple that with how close you are to residential units, it’s a unique time for downtown north, and Schlitz Park.” ν