South Milwaukee looking at future without Caterpillar

City meeting with GRAEF to develop master plan for 76-acre site

Caterpillar’s facility on Milwaukee Avenue in

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 05:00 pm

With the future of Caterpillar Inc.’s South Milwaukee facility in limbo, the city has enlisted the help of Milwaukee-based engineering firm GRAEF and Colliers International | Wisconsin to look at its options for the 76-acre property.

Caterpillar’s mining equipment division headquarters is on Milwaukee Avenue in South Milwaukee.
Caterpillar’s mining equipment division headquarters is on Milwaukee Avenue in South Milwaukee.

The entrance to Caterpillar’s South Milwaukee facility sits at 1100 Milwaukee Ave., adjacent to the city’s downtown, which has been undergoing revitalization in recent years.

This week, the city plan commission heard a proposal from GRAEF to begin work on a master plan for the Caterpillar site that will come up with options for redevelopment of the parcel should Caterpillar vacate.

A 86,391-square-foot warehouse to the east of the main site was currently listed for sale and Caterpillar has publicly expressed intentions to vacate other facilities over the next year.

In May, Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar confirmed plans to move engineering operations from South Milwaukee to Arizona as part of the creation of a central hub for its surface mining and technology offices. As many as 200 jobs are expected to move from South Milwaukee to Arizona over the next five to seven years.

Caterpillar Inc. has reduced its global workforce by 14,000 employees in the past year, well ahead of the pace the company announced in September 2015.

South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks said he hopes to have a master plan with GRAEF ready for common council approval by early next year.

“We feel a need to be proactive for the future of the site,” Brooks said. “We’re going to be looking to (Caterpillar) to continue to be good partners, but we want to look at the entire so we know, going forward, what is going to be available.”

The company has already consolidated operations on the South Milwaukee campus. Last year, Caterpillar combined operations from one of its 500,000-square-foot buildings into 250,000 square feet of space.

Of the 76 acres Caterpillar occupies, the company still owns approximately 43.5 acres. The remaining 32.5 acres are owned by OLP JV Milwaukee LLC, which is registered to One Liberty Properties Inc., a real estate investment firm based in Great Neck, New York.

The campus is split in two by Rawson Avenue, with the pieces referred to as “north of Rawson” and “south of Rawson.” Caterpillar owns two properties “north of Rawson,” a 36.6-acre parcel at 1118 Rawson Ave. and a 2.2-acre parcel at 1100 Rawson Ave. that contains an office building and many of the original Bucyrus buildings.

“I want to have a collective vision that the city endorses, the plan commission endorses and the community endorses,” Brooks said. “We have to be really open to ideas and concepts.”

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