Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:36 pm
Brown Deer-based manufacturer Rite-Hite is considering a move from its current headquarters to Milwaukee’s Reed Street Yards, according to commercial real estate industry sources.
If the company decides to move forward, it would be a significant development for the mostly vacant office park in the Walker’s Point neighborhood.
According to several sources, who asked not to be named, the company has been targeting sites near downtown Milwaukee in its relocation search. It has a particular interest in Reed Street Yards, though a decision isn’t final.
One source mentioned Rite-Hite was specifically looking to move to an area where it had enough land to eventually expand.
Through a spokesperson, the company declined to comment.
“Rite-Hite will not be able to make a comment,” spokesperson Andy Larsen said in an email.
Those involved with Reed Street Yards acknowledged the site is generating interest from companies, but declined to specify names.
Rite-Hite makes material handling systems including vehicle restraints, dock levelers, integrated controls, dock seals and shelters and industrial doors. Its current Brown Deer facilities, located at 8900 N. Arbon Dr., include the company headquarters and a research and development facility.
Reed Street Yards is billed as a research and technology park focused on Milwaukee’s growing water industry. It consists of 17 acres along West Freshwater Way just south of downtown, largely east of South Sixth Street and west of South Third Street. It’s also next to the Global Water Center, which is at 247 W. Freshwater Way.
It is being developed by Peter Moede and Fox Point-based General Capital Group. The city has contributed to the business park project as well.
In fact, city officials are set to consider spending $3.4 million to replace existing sewer infrastructure at the business park. The proposal would redirect some money the city had already approved for Reed Street Yards, through an existing tax incremental financing district. In 2014, the city allocated $5 million to go toward a public/private venture fund. This latest proposal would move $3.4 million originally directed at that purpose and instead fund the proposed infrastructure work, according to city documents.
City documents show the sewer lines to be decommissioned currently run underneath the vacant parcels at the business park. The proposed new sewer lines would along the edges of the vacant parcels, near Freshwater Way. A line would also run underneath the street and between the Zurn building and the vacant parcel to the east of it.
According to the documents, the new sewer and related public infrastructure would “enable additional development to occur” at Reed Street Yards.
Jeff Fleming, spokesman with Milwaukee’s Department of City Development, said the infrastructure proposal is not tied to a specific development. He said there has been interest in Reed Street Yards from businesses, but declined comment further.
“We’ve had some interest from businesses, and the consensus here is that this infrastructure project would help clear the way for any business to choose this site for development,” Fleming said in an email. “I’m not, at this stage, in a position to share the identity of companies that we’ve talked to.”
Linda Gorens-Levey, partner at General Capital, declined to comment, other than to acknowledge there has been interest in the business park and that the sewer infrastructure would need to be replaced regardless in order to facilitate development.
The proposed sewer work is to be taken up by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee when it next meets on Thursday.
Two sources said Rite-Hite was looking to move out of Brown Deer at least in part because of a legal dispute between the company and the village. The village sought to seize six acres of land from the company for a new public works facility. Rite-Hite challenged the action in court back in 2017. The company said losing the land would limit its options for expanding its corporate headquarters. The two parties settled the dispute and the village eventually acquired the land from the company.
Also, Rite-Hite already has a presence near downtown Milwaukee. In the spring of 2018, the company announced it was opening an office in the Historic Third Ward. The 12,500-square-foot office at 342 N. Water St. for more than 20 full-time sales management and corporate marketing employees, while another 24 people at a time would be there for the company’s three-month sales training programs, the company said at the time.
Already located at Reed Street Yards is a building that houses Zurn Industries LLC’s headquarters. Also being built at the southwest corner of South Second and West Oregon streets is a five-story, 87-unit apartment building known as The Yards. According to project developer Linden Street Partners’ website, the project is slated for completion in early 2020.
The park has been eyed by corporate users in the past. The site was one of three finalists in Brookfield-based Fiserv Inc.’s search for a new headquarters location. Fiserv has not moved forward with any plans to relocate its headquarters.