The Interview: Ryan Pattee

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Ryan Pattee
Pattee Group
4828 W Lisbon Ave., Milwaukee

Ryan Pattee is a Milwaukee-area boutique developer who pursues projects outside of downtown that reflect the desires of the neighborhoods the buildings are in. His current projects include the transformation of a former nightclub at 3060 S. 13th St. into a new tea shop and manufacturing space for Urbal Tea, the redevelopment of 3528-30 W. National Ave. as the future home of Salvadorian restaurant Pupuseria la Chalateca, and the redevelopment of the commercial building at 729-733 W. Historic Mitchell St. Pattee recently spoke with BizTimes reporter Alex Zank about his method of choosing projects and his views on the city’s future.

How do you choose which redevelopment projects to pursue?

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“We generally like to sit down with the neighborhood BID (business improvement district) or the NID (neighborhood improvement district) if they have one, and try to get a better idea of what the neighborhood residents are looking for in the area. If possible, we really try to work with the (Department of City Development) to find a city-owned property in these neighborhoods. We feel we can kill two birds with one stone and buy a city-owned property. It removes blight in the neighborhood and also adds taxes back on the tax roll for the entire city’s benefit … We have a pretty extensive list of tenants that are looking for space. After you do a few, hopefully, what we think are successful projects, you start getting people contacting you wanting space, and we can kind of build to suit for these tenants.”

Why do you focus your efforts outside of downtown?

“We feel downtown is in good hands already with people like Tim Gokhman of New Land Enterprises, Josh Jeffers (of J. Jeffers & Co.), a ton of other great developers. Downtown’s covered. There are people doing it, they’re doing a great job at it. We want to highlight some of the other wonderful, diverse, eclectic areas of the city. We are a whole city, not just downtown. We want to highlight the other neighborhoods and show what they have to give and they have the same hipness factor as downtown.”

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What do you see as the next up-and-coming Milwaukee neighborhood?

“I feel there are many places that fit the bill for an up-and-coming neighborhood. It depends on the timeframe you’re looking at, if you’re looking at two years, five years, (or) 10 years. The few that I look forward to seeing come up: I like Historic Mitchell Street. I really like Clarke Square, Silver City, the Near West Side. I like the Washington Heights/Washington Park area. I think those are some of the areas I can see having the correct confluence of commercial corridor, really good housing stock, high owner-occupancy in the home stock, not a ton of rental properties.”

Tell me about your latest project, at 729-733 W. Historic Mitchell St.

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“Like I stated in the past, we believe in Historic Mitchell Street and we’re trying to find the right business that will fit the community’s needs. There’s a variety of businesses that will fit the community’s needs; we are exploring all possibilities right now. We are actively talking to between three to five different companies at a time about that space.”

What are some of the challenges you face as a developer in Milwaukee?

“Our model, unlike other developers, we’re more of a boutique developer, I guess you could call us. So, we have to continue to keep looking for inventory that fits our model and will work with the clients we try to attract. We really try to offer an A-class space … but with C-class pricing. We love keeping the tenants’ costs low so they can remain in the city and don’t have to flee to lower-cost space in the suburbs. They don’t always even have to be a good quality property; it’s just finding the right ratio for acquisition price compared to rehab costs, compared to how low we can keep that rent for people. That’s the key, is keeping it affordable so the businesses can succeed.”


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