Strauss Brands’ new HQ proposal runs into opposition

Discussion heats up with protesters at City Hall


Strauss Brands LLC’s $60 million proposal to move its headquarters and 150 employees from Franklin to Milwaukee’s Century City business park hit a roadblock Tuesday.

The Common Council chose to send the proposal back to the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee in front of a contingent of protesters who opposed having a “slaughter house” in a Milwaukee neighborhood.

Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman, who brought the motion, said he understands the need for job creation and redevelopment. However, Bauman said the city needs to hear more from its residents on the matter.

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He said proposals like slaughterhouses, oil refineries and chemical plants historically raise great sensitivity among citizens due to the stigma surrounding these land uses, adding that he was surprised by a lack of public comment at either of the previous public hearings.

“Those types of land uses always seem to end up in the poorest neighborhoods in every big and small city in the country,” Bauman said.

Alderman Khalif Rainey, who represents the district where the new headquarters would be located, questioned the motives of the protesters. Rainey said he didn’t recognize any of the protesters and claimed none of them were even from his neighborhood, or involved with the Century City Triangle Neighborhood Association.

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His comments drew a large reaction from the gallery, forcing council president Ashanti Hamilton to strike his gavel and threaten to clear the gallery.

Rainey also noted words like “slaughter” on the signs of protesters and as he referenced recent incidents of violence in the neighborhood, asked protesters where they were during those events.

“When you talk about trauma, PTSD, all these things exist in our community,” Rainey said. “This is what I call select indignation.”

Rainey said the root of the issue is poverty, adding that jobs generated by Strauss Brands could be the difference between a young individual choosing to hold a job over living off the streets. While Rainey backed the proposal, he was still receptive of Bauman’s motion.

Some of the protesters who stood in the Council Chamber’s gallery on Tuesday were with the organization Slaughter Free Milwaukee and Direct Action Everywhere, two grassroots networks who oppose the meat processing facility.

Members of the two organizations say they’ve visited the Century City and Sherman Park area neighborhood, knocked on doors and spoke with neighbors who weren’t aware of the proposal.

“Our goal today was to have them suspend the vote so we could have public input,” said Lisa Castagnozzi, activist and owner of Just Goods, a fair trade, vegan and local gift shop in Shorewood.

Activists are most concerned with pollution, stench, the impact meat processing plants can have on a worker’s mental health, according to a Slaughter Free Milwaukee press release.

“Slaughterhouses create many detrimental consequences and immediate impacts on neighborhoods, particularly disadvantaged ones,” said activist Amy Zignego.

Castagnozzi also disagreed with Rainey’s comments about the protesters, adding that at least eight people from the Century City neighborhood attended Tuesday’s Common Council meeting on their own accord.

“Everyone I saw was a Milwaukee citizen and we all have a stake in this,” Castagnozzi said. “It’s not just about that neighborhood.”

Strauss Brands has operated in the greater Milwaukee area for more 82 years and touts itself as “one of the nation’s leading suppliers of ethically raised meats,” according a statement released on behalf of Randy Strauss, Strauss Brands president and CEO.

“We look forward to working with the city and the community to advance this important economic development project in Century City,” the statement reads.

The Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee is slated to discuss the proposal Oct. 29.

Strauss plans to construct a 175,000-square-foot facility on 20 acres along Hopkins Street south of Capitol Drive. The city would sell the site to Strauss for $1 and has plans to subsidize the project with a $4.5 million developer-financed tax incremental finance district.

Strauss officials say they would process up to 500 cattle each day. Cattle would be unloaded from trucks into an indoor facility while waste would be dropped into a basement to mitigate order, according to Strauss officials.

Strauss expects construction of the facility to begin later this year with occupancy expected in 2021.

If approved, Strauss Brands would become the third business to inhabit the 80-acre business park.

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