Real Estate Spotlight: New interest boosts long-planned project at prime I-43 site

A rendering of the 40,000-square-foot warehouse and office building planned for a site along I-43 in Glendale.
A rendering of the 40,000-square-foot warehouse and office building planned for a site along I-43 in Glendale. REDgraphx LLC

It is not uncommon for development projects to take a long time to move from the planning stage to completion, but it’s been nearly 15 years since Brian Monroe first started laying the groundwork for a development on a prime site along Interstate 43, in Glendale.

The project has taken a few big steps recently and Monroe now says the first building is set to break ground this year.

Monroe, managing partner of Mequon-based Earthbound Development LLC, controls a 5.4-acre parcel east of I-43 and a 16.9-acre site to the west. The land is situated north of Capitol Drive, between Green Bay Avenue and Port Washington Road.

A small portion of the site is actually in the city of Milwaukee, but the majority is in Glendale. The property owner is the Monroe-led Glendale Partners LLC.

At the eastern parcel, Monroe will develop a multi-tenant, 40,000-square-foot warehouse and office building. Monroe said he has serious interest from a tenant for 16,000 square feet, but wouldn’t name them until plans are final. The plan is to seek approvals from Glendale officials in May. Construction could commence shortly after approvals are granted, with completion slated for the end of this year or early 2021.

The larger parcel to the west, meanwhile, can accommodate a nearly 150,000-square-foot building. The site has recently drawn interest from a developer, he said.

The vision for a development at the site first started with Monroe acquiring land in 2005. However, it is recent tenant and developer interest that could result in shovels in the ground in 2020.

Other events helping the project move forward include the funding of I-43 improvements last year, an extension in February from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. of a 2018 idle industrial site grant for $435,000 and Glendale approval of a new certified survey map for the site in January.

Monroe said his development will only benefit from the freeway project.

As part of I-43 rehabilitation work from Capitol Drive to Hampton Avenue, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will remove the 57-year-old bridge that currently runs through the site, which will lower the roadway.

Dan Sellers, a WisDOT spokesman, said the stretch of roadway will be the same height as it is now coming off the Capitol Drive interchange, and will slowly drop down as it heads north.

“Through much analysis, the department has determined that removing the bridge and building an earthen fill section with retaining walls is much more cost-effective,” Sellers said in an email.

Monroe said the end result will “greatly enhance” the development site’s visibility for the 95,000-plus vehicles that use I-43 daily.

WisDOT expects to begin construction work in 2021. It also plans to rebuild and expand a section of freeway to the north, starting at Silver Spring Drive.

Beyond these recent events, the site had to come a long way before Monroe could even ready detailed building plans. In fact, Monroe said Glendale officials “shook their heads” at some of the challenges when they first looked at the site about 20 years ago.

The project started with the acquisition of 19.5 acres from Chicago-based CMC Heartland Partners in November 2005. In the years following, Glendale Partners has worked to assemble and reconfigure the site, in part by making land swaps with neighboring landowners. The assemblage included acquiring a former rail line and incorporating part of it into the larger development site, giving it better access to Port Washington Road.

In all, Monroe completed eight different transactions to come up with the site that exists today.

Then there was the matter of getting permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state to fill existing wetlands, which he said was a six-year process on its own.

But the payoff will be the development of the last large piece of vacant land in Glendale, said city administrator Rachel Safstrom.

“This has some potential to definitely have prime development,” she said, noting it is the first Glendale property travelers see when heading north along the freeway.

Of course, the project hasn’t cleared all hurdles yet. It still needs final approvals from the city. But in reaching this far, Monroe noted his fortune in working with local officials and neighbors.

“It has been a long time coming,” Safstrom said.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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