Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett issued a call Thursday to community leaders to help push the Century City business park forward in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor in Milwaukee's central city.
"I call on community leaders, business leaders, labor leaders, foundation leaders, education leaders, to join us in making sure this city continues to reinvent itself," Barrett said at an event inside Century City I, the first new building to be constructed on the former Tower Automotive site near North 31st Street and Capitol Drive.
The mayor said the success of the project as a whole, which included the acquisition of 84 acres and demolition of 1.8 million square feet of industrial buildings, is “incredibly important to me personally, to my administration, to the future of this city.”
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“This is our test, and it may not be an easy test, but we all recognize that this neighborhood needs more family supporting jobs," Barrett said.
Thursday’s event was intended as an open house and an opportunity for real estate brokers to get more information on the newest building and the site as a whole. The 53,160-square-foot Century City I building has industrial heavy zoning and is being marketing by Colliers International, General Capital Group, Mid-West Energy Research Consortium and the city of Milwaukee.
“We need to have private businesses step up and recognize the importance. And I'm not looking for altruism, I'm looking for smart business people who understand the significance of this site," Barrett said.
City Development Commissioner Rocky Marcoux stressed that the neighborhood surrounding the site has a skilled workforce and the site has access to rail after a switch was installed for train maker Talgo.
“Let no one leave this room with any doubt that if you bring a manufacturer to the corridor that we can fill that manufacturer's needs,” Marcoux said.
He also sought to address potential concerns with crime in the area.
“Crime's an issue anywhere you go. It’s no more an issue here than it is in the Menominee Valley or anywhere else you go in the city of Milwaukee. There are strategies around dealing with issues,” Marcoux said.
He also said that the city is capable of helping a business through incentives, but it needs to be the right fit.
"Don’t be afraid to ask us. Jobs are the most important piece, though," Marcoux said. "We're not looking for logistics terminals, we're not looking warehouses. Those have a place and certainly there’s places in the city of Milwaukee we'd be happy to put them. What we need here in Century City is jobs coverage ratios."
He noted the redevelopment of the Menomonee Valley was able to achieve its target of 21 jobs per acre and the goal for Century City and the corridor is similar.
Thursday’s program also stressed other benefits beyond rail access and available workforce. Alan Perlstein, Mid-West Energy Research Consortium chief executive officer and executive director, noted the business park will likely have three microgrids. He also said Century City I was designed with the ability to easily add solar or geothermal power.
Michael Weiss, president of General Capital Group, the developer for the building, said his vision is for Century City to capitalize on the region’s efforts to develop water and energy clusters. He said a deal could be struck for a brand name company to have a technology and research facility at Reed Street Yards in Walker’s Point, which General Capital is also developing, and a manufacturing facility at Century City.
Weiss said the potential was there with Zurn choosing to build at Reed Street Yards, but its parent company, Rexnord, already has other facilities in the area.
The Century City site has already had one false start with Talgo and what Barrett called “the sad history that happened there” after the state backed away from high-speed rail.
"One of the lessons we learned from Talgo (closing its plant) is if you fall down, get up, brush yourself off and keep going,” Barrett said.