Schlitz Park office complex listed for sale

Downtown Milwaukee office park has been owned by Grunau, Sampson families since 1983

Schlitz Park

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:50 pm

Downtown Milwaukee’s Schlitz Park, which was brought back to life by Milwaukee developer Gary Grunau in the early 1980s and then revitalized again following the Great Recession, is on the market for the first time in 35 years.

The 32-acre office park just north of downtown Milwaukee includes five office buildings, three parking structures and a chilled water plant.

The office buildings comprise a total of 774,256 square feet of space that is collectively 98 percent leased to 39 tenants totaling more than 3,500 employees. The property is home to more than a dozen nonprofit organizations and located along Milwaukee’s RiverWalk system.

CBRE’s Chicago office is marketing the complex, which is bounded by the Milwaukee River to the east, Pleasant Street to the north, Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive to the west, and Cherry Street to the south.

Grunau said CBRE was first engaged in 2015 to provide guidance and explore options for Schlitz Park. The company is asked to do so every two to three years, he said.

“We are dipping our toe in the water to see what is out there,” Grunau said. “It could be refinancing, it could be selling one or two buildings, it could be selling the whole thing. We’re at a point in our careers where if someone makes us an offer and it makes sense for myself and my partners, we’ll sell.”

In April 2017, Grunau and his partners “dipped a toe in the water” putting the four-story, 280,000-square-foot ManpowerGroup corporate headquarters building at 201-229 W. Cherry St. on the market. In June 2017, the building was sold for $66.5 million to Chicago-based real estate investment firm Bentall Kennedy and Warba Bank, a Kuwaiti public shareholding company.

Grunau and members of the Sampson family bought the former Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co. complex in 1983. The former brewery shut down in 1981.

During the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009, the 1.2 million-square-foot office park had significant vacancies. To help attract new tenants, Grunau and Scott Sampson began thinking about what young professionals would want in an office park.

Gary Grunau

They invested $30 million remodeling the public areas, renovating several buildings and adding fitness centers, healthy food options and several enhancements for bicycles.

The investments worked and over the next nine years, Schlitz Park would achieve full occupancy. In June, Grunau announced New York-based National General Insurance would move its Milwaukee office to Schlitz Park. The company’s 31,315-square-foot lease in the RiverCenter building brought the complex’s occupancy to 100 percent.

In May 2017, Grunau learned he had a brain tumor. He was diagnosed with primary central nervous system lymphoma. Grunau underwent surgery, 10 weeks of chemotherapy, three weeks of radiation treatment followed by oral chemotherapy and then ongoing medical maintenance.

During an interview in September, Grunau called the experience “humbling.”

It also gave him perspective. A lifelong civil servant, Grunau has become even more focused on Milwaukee’s ongoing issues with racial segregation.

Grunau said the current engagement with CBRE has nothing to do with his recent health problems.

“My health has been doing well and I’m up and about and bumping around,” he said. “This is not a case where I’m going to put my feet up and go away and hide. I’ve got a lot of things I’m working on. In fact, I’ve been out too many nights lately.”

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