The Milwaukee Common Council approved an $11.6 million tax incremental financing package to support Fiserv’s new corporate headquarters downtown, along with improvements to nearby public infrastructure.
Fiserv announced plans in late October to move its global headquarters from Brookfield to the HUB640 building in downtown Milwaukee. The building was previously home to Boston Store parent company Bon-Ton. It is located adjacent to the former Grand Avenue Mall, now known as The Avenue following a massive redevelopment effort.
Under the package unanimously approved on Tuesday morning, the city would reimburse Fiserv $7 million of the roughly $37 million the company plans to spend in renovating its new headquarters.
Another $4.6 million would be spent to design and construct public infrastructure improvements in and near the TIF district. The spending would include $2.5 million for traffic calming elements, bike facilities, new pavement, trees, landscaping and traffic signals along West Michigan Street between the Milwaukee River and North 6th Street.
Chicago-based North Wells Capital, the owner of HUB640, would receive a cash grant of $1 million for streetscape and sidewalk improvements around the perimeter of the building as part of the $4.6 million.
The city’s Joint Review Board, which is comprised of representatives from area taxing bodies, is slated to give its final vote on the new TIF district on Wednesday morning.
Jobs and public infrastructure
The project plans also include $750,000 for public art and informative kiosks memorializing and celebrating the legacy of Vel R. Phillips at the proposed Vel R. Phillips Plaza at 401 W. Wisconsin Ave.; $100,000 for a pedestrian path and lighting improvements at Zeidler Square; $75,000 for improvements to the West Michigan Street and North 6th Street intersection; and a $175,000 public infrastructure contingency.
Fiserv’s reimbursement could be repaid over up to 20 years with 4.5% interest rate that starts after the project is completed. The city would repay the company using 75% of the tax increment generated by the district annually. The other 25% of the increment would go toward the public infrastructure projects.
In exchange for the city support, Fiserv is committing to having 580 FTEs based at the headquarters at the end of the first fiscal year of the project and 780 FTEs by 2027. To account for the growing use of hybrid and remote work, the agreement between the company and city calls for workday occupancy at the headquarters to average at least 60%. Employees living in the city of Milwaukee but working remotely would count toward the average.
Fiserv is also committing to keep its headquarters at HUB640 for at least 16 years and would sign a lease for that duration with the option to extend for an additional 20 years. The plans define the headquarters as having key divisions, including initially finance, communications and IT, product development, human resources, benefits, and legal functions.
Renovation of the HUB640 building for Fiserv will have to meet city requirements for using small and disadvantaged businesses along with the Residents Preference Program for construction work. Fiserv is also going to partner with Near West Side Partners to provide small businesses resources to the Concordia 27 community center and will maintain an average of three tech apprenticeships for city residents through 2039.
The project plan also calls for janitorial, security and food service staff, both direct hire and contracted, to make at least $15 per hour through 2024 with an annual escalator of at least 2%.
East North Avenue TIF district also approved
Alderman also approved the creation of a $4.1 million TIF district that would fund public infrastructure projects, including traffic calming measures, along East North Avenue. Projects included in that plan would take place between North Humboldt Avenue and North Prospect Avenue. Funding could also be allocated for a partial pedestrianization of Ivanhoe Place.
“This newly created TID will make a lasting impact in the 3rd District by making streets safer and more pedestrian friendly, and directly aligns with the city’s larger commitment to Vision Zero,” said Alderman Jonathan Brostoff in a press release issued Tuesday, “This is certainly welcome news, and I want to thank my colleagues for their support, city staff who have worked to help advance this initiative, the East Side Business Improvement District who was a key driver behind the project, and all the residents and community groups who voiced their support.”
[caption id="attachment_558784" align="aligncenter" width="673"] A rendering of the proposed pedestrian mall on East Ivanhoe Place on Milwaukee's East Side. Credit: City of Milwaukee’s Gathering Places Feasibility Study.[/caption]