RFPs could reshape area near State and Water

Two requests for proposals (RFPs) from developers could lead to new buildings that dramatically reshape the area northwest of Water Street and State Street in downtown Milwaukee.

The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts is issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for a "high-quality, mixed-use" redevelopment of its 2.4-acre, 700-car parking structure property at the northwest corner of Water Street and State Street in downtown Milwaukee. Development proposals must be submitted to the Marcus Center by Sept. 7.

To obtain a copy of the RFP, visit www.marcuscenter.org/documents/MarcusCenterRedevelopmentRFP.pdf.

At the same time the city of Milwaukee has issued an RFP for a vacant 19,985-square-foot property, located along the Milwaukee River and just west of the Marcus Center parking garage. Responses to that RFP must be submitted to the Department of City Development by Sept. 28. To obtain a copy of the RFP, visit www.mkedcd.org/realestate/Edison/EdisonMain.html.

The fact that these two RFPs are being issued at the same time is just a coincidence, said Paul Mathews, president of the Marcus Center.

 Earlier development plans for the Marcus Center parking structure and the lot owned by the city have fallen through.

"While we have been working on this project for a number of years, the market may be better now," said Paul Mathews, president of the Marcus Center. "We’re looking for some fresh ideas for what will be a signature project for the Marcus Center and the city."

The last time the city tried to attract development to its lot, the proposed 25-story River Tower condominium development fell through in 2002.

According to its RFP, the Marcus Center would prefer a development with retail/restaurant space on the first floor and office space or residential units on the upper floors. The project must include a new parking structure with at least 1,200 spaces and a skywalk connected to the Marcus Center. The skywalk would replace the existing skywalk.

The city’s asking price for its property is $540,000. According to the city’s RFP, officials want a mixed-use development and "ground floor use must activate the Riverwalk, the Highland Street pedestrian bridge and the walkway to Edison Street." The upper floors could have residential or office space.

A nearby property, the Rojahn & Malaney Co. wholesale florist building at 1005 N. Edison St., also may be a prime redevelopment site. Although developers have approached the company about buying its 18,784-square-foot, one-story building, the company has no plans to move, said chairman Walter Rojahn.

"We’ve been here since 1955," he said. "It’s just a location that works for us. We are happy where we are. It’s centrally located, near the freeway and our customers are used to us being here."

As several condominium and office developers have sprung up along the Milwaukee River downtown, Rojahn & Malaney has seen its property value and property taxes rise, Rojahn said. The property has an assessed value of $541,000, according to city records, up from the $531,000 assessment in 2006. Despite the rising property taxes, the company plans to stay put, Rojahn said.

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