South Milwaukee wants state to consider Caterpillar site for new office building

Project will replace current downtown Milwaukee building

Caterpillar’s facility on Milwaukee Avenue in

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:54 pm

South Milwaukee leaders are pitching the Caterpillar campus as the site of the new Milwaukee state office building.

The Department of Administration announced in February it would replace its 54-year-old downtown Milwaukee office building at 819 N. 6th St. with a new 163,400-square-foot state office building and 690-stall parking structure or surface lot.

Caterpillar’s facility on Milwaukee Avenue in
South Milwaukee.

South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks began reaching out to DOA officials in June about the “soon-to-be available” Caterpillar campus in downtown South Milwaukee.

“We think the Cat site provides a very viable and cost-effective turnkey alternative to tearing down and building new,” Brooks said in emails obtained by BizTimes through an open records request.

As Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar began shrinking its operations in South Milwaukee over the last year, Brooks and city officials have engaged Milwaukee-based engineering firm GRAEF to develop a master plan for the area currently occupied by Caterpillar.

The 76-acre Caterpillar complex sits at 1100 Milwaukee Ave., adjacent to the city’s downtown. The company still owns approximately 43.5 acres. The remaining 32.5 acres are currently for sale.

“We would love for this project to be a foundational piece of our downtown redevelopment efforts,” Brooks said in an email to the DOA in September.

When contacted by phone, Brooks said he still believes the state office building would be a great anchor tenant for the site.

“I think (the state has) moved on,” Brooks said. “But I feel just as strongly today as I did before and we would love to be considered. The (Caterpillar) office building could be repurposed pretty easily. We’re 10 minutes from downtown (Milwaukee). There is an ease of access for people coming to the building. It makes a lot of sense.”

Proposed tenants for the new $65 million state office facility would include the departments of Administration, Health Services, Revenue, Workforce Development and Public Instruction. The governor’s Milwaukee office, the office of the state public defender and the Board on Aging and Long Term Care would also be located in the building.

The DOA has not yet issued a request for proposal for the new state office building. In a Sept. 19 email to Brooks, John Klenke, acting administrator with the state Division of Facilities Management, said the RFP, which will include a preferred location, is expected to be issued in about 60 days.

A DOA spokesman could not give an exact date when the RFP will be issued.

According to the state budget, the RFP will be issued in April 2018, with a developer selected in August 2018 and construction on the new state office building occurring from April 2019 through August 2021.

Brooks said he will have to speak with the property owner and broker, but he doesn’t see why South Milwaukee won’t respond to the RFP when it is issued.

“I want to be in the ball game,” Brooks said. “That’s why I reached out to the state and we are definitely on their radar screen.”

The Department of Administration announced in February it would replace its 54-year-old downtown Milwaukee office building at 819 N. 6th St. with a new 163,400-square-foot state office building.

This project is being done as part of the DOA’s strategic plan for its real estate in Milwaukee, which includes consolidating, relocation and disposing of state owned and leased properties.

The existing state office building will be vacated and sold.

In a separate email obtained by BizTimes, Jeremy Theis, former facilities management director with Milwaukee County, asked Klenke if county officials could walk through the building.

“We have had extensive swing space and administrative facility challenges since the Annex Admin building was demolished almost a decade ago,” Theis said. “We thought some insight into your building could really help our option development in the years to come.”

Cash-strapped Milwaukee County has a wide-range of capital needs for its buildings, parks, cultural institutions and transit system.

A report released in September by the Public Policy Forum, found the county should more than double its spending on building related projects in 2018, from $12 million to $24 million and almost quadruple it to $45 million in 2019.

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