Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm
Last year, Duet Resource Group, a company that sells office furniture, moved from Hartland to an historic building at 440 W. Vliet St. in Milwaukee. Duet now occupies about 3,000 square feet in the 30,000-square-foot building, which is owned by Lorette Russenberger. She owns Cream City Ribbon, which occupies about 22,000 square feet in the building. Russenberger purchased the building in 2004 and then gutted much of it, sandblasted its Cream City brick exterior and made other improvements. The building has a mix of office and light industrial space.
"The space, the look and the warehouse, all were a perfect fit," said Duet president and owner Dan Mahlik. "And it was at a reasonable rate. We’re a little bit on the edge (of downtown). I was in search of this place for two years. I knew I wanted to go downtown."
Duet’s building is located in an area known as the Haymarket neighborhood. Others call it Haymarket Square. The neighborhood is located just north of downtown Milwaukee and is bounded by West McKinley Avenue on the south, West Pleasant Street on the north, North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on the east and North Sixth Street on the west.
Most of the buildings in the neighborhood are occupied by light industrial users. The neighborhood is an eclectic mix of historic brick structures, some more than 100 years old, and other less visually appealing modern industrial buildings.
The neighborhood is so named because there was once a haymarket at the corner of Sixth Street and McKinley Avenue, Milwaukee historian John Gurda said. The haymarket was similar to today’s farmers markets. Hay was sold there for horses, along with seasonal produce. The haymarket was closed after people started driving cars and stopped buying hay, and the market couldn’t compete with modern supermarkets.
The neighborhood was one of the most German sections of Milwaukee in the 1800s and in the early 1900s was one of the most Jewish areas of the city, Gurda said.
Today, the Haymarket neighborhood is dominated by light industry and lies right in the middle of several key redevelopment areas in downtown Milwaukee:
- The Park East Freeway corridor is just to the south.
- Manpower Inc. will build its new corporate headquarters just a block to the east, next to the Schlitz Park office complex.
- The Bronzeville cultural district is being planned to the north.
- Just outside of the neighborhood, former state Commerce Secretary and Quarles & Brady partner Cory Nettles and real estate developer Carla Cross plan to develop four buildings with about 82,000 square feet of space for condos, offices and stores on a site bounded by West Walnut, West Vine, North Fifth and North Sixth streets.
The combination of its historic structures and proximity to downtown and several redevelopment projects makes some think the Haymarket neighborhood could also attract redevelopment, much as Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward and Firth Ward have seen historic industrial structures converted to mixed-use buildings with office, residential and retail space.
"I don’t want to speak for the owners, but when you look at these buildings, they have potential for being converted," said James T. Barry III, president of Colliers Barry.
The historic buildings in Haymarket cost less than those in the booming Third Ward, but the Haymarket area is a bigger risk because it has less momentum, Barry said. Still, the old multi-story buildings in Haymarket are obsolete for modern industrial use and could eventually be put to a higher and better use, he said.
Richard "Rocky" Marcoux said he thinks the historic buildings in Haymarket could be redeveloped with attractive, affordable residences to provide places for workers to live that cost less than the high-priced condos that have already been developed in abundance downtown.
"Something is going to happen (in Haymarket), and it’s going to be positive," Marcoux said. "It will evolve as the marketplace dictates."
"I think over time you are going to see (property) values go up, particularly when you have people living there making it much more of a neighborhood," Barry said.
Industrial users will still have a strong presence in the Haymarket neighborhood for a while, said Sam Dickman Jr., vice president of The Dickman Company Inc.
"Those people like being close to downtown, and it’s difficult to find industrial space close to downtown," he said. "There always needs to be some industrial close to downtown because there’s a need for it. There are a lot of (industrial) businesses that service downtown."
The owners of the historic buildings in Haymarket are paying attention to changes occurring in the area, and some are planning to redevelop their buildings.
The 97-year-old, 93,750-square-foot building at 1319 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive is owned by New Land Enterprises, which has done several condominium developments in downtown Milwaukee. The building is occupied by Mandel Co., a small print shop, and some other tenants. New Land plans to eventually redevelop the building, but has no immediate plans to do so, said owner Boris Gokhman.
"It’s a very prominent neighborhood that improves by the day," Gokhman said. "We’re excited about Manpower coming to the neighborhood."
Russenberger, the first property owner in the neighborhood to redevelop her building for office uses, says more redevelopment is on the way in Haymarket.
"It’s close to downtown and the (Milwaukee) river – you can’t beat the location," she said. "There’s lots of nice old buildings, there’s lots of room for development, and (the area) is being underutilized. It’s an odd little pocket. No one knows it’s here."
Some new developments already are occurring in the neighborhood.
- Madison-based Gorman & Co. is building a four-story, 84-unit apartment building at King Drive and West Vliet Street, with ground-level retail space. The building, located across King Drive from the Manpower site, is expected to be complete in July.
- J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. will move its Milwaukee office from 1122 N. Edison St. in downtown Milwaukee to an industrial building in Haymarket at 1600 N. Sixth St., which is being renovated to provide the company with 23,000 square feet of space. "It’s got a beautiful panoramic view of the city skyline, it’s a million dollar view," Findorff vice president John Rodell said. "(The neighborhood) is really on the rise, in my opinion."
- Michael Loos, the owner of O’Reilly Motor Cars Inc., 324 W. Cherry St., has been working for several years to redevelop a small building attached to his property. That building is a small former church rectory constructed in 1869. The rectory was part of a church that was demolished decades ago. Loos believes the rectory building would make a good office space for an architectural or design firm. "It’s a cool building with high ceilings," he said. "I’m sure someone will want to lease it from me sooner or later."
The established light industrial uses in Haymarket will make redevelopment there an interesting combination of office, residential and retail uses.
"It will be much more of a mix," said David Rotter, co-chief executive officer of National Ace Hardware, which owns a cluster of buildings at 1303 N. 4th St. "It will be more interesting to live in. There are two questions – how quick it will develop and what kind of development it will be."
Because of how close the Haymarket area is to both Schlitz Park and the Manpower site, Rotter thinks office space will be more prevalent in the neighborhood than in the Third Ward. And because both Haymarket and the Park East have vacant parcels that could be developed from scratch, there is a potential to better handle issues such as parking than the Third Ward.
"That could be a huge advantage for the area," Rotter said. "But it’s got to be planned."
Rotter and his family have been in the hardware business for about 50 years, and they’re not going anywhere, he said.
"We’ve seen good and bad here," Rotter said. "Regardless of what form (redevelopment) takes, it will be good for our business. We’re kind of sitting back and waiting. What will happen, we’re not sure. But whatever it is, I think it will be good."
Redevelopment will come to Haymarket because downtown Milwaukee doesn’t have any other area to move into, said Gary Kohlenberg, the former mayor of Oconomowoc whose family owns a 30,000-square-foot building at 1445 N. Fifth St. that was built in 1906. Hein Electric Supply Co. leases the first floor of the building.
"It won’t go south – the (Menomonee) valley is there," he said. "To the west – they’ve chosen not to go there historically. You can’t go east. That leaves the north. When the Park East (freeway) came down, it changed the dynamics of expansion."
"(The neighborhood) has become more valuable since the Park East Freeway was removed," Marcoux said.
Completion of the McKinley Boulevard off and on-ramps, development of the Manpower site and continued interest in the vacant land from the Park East will give the Haymarket area and his site new life, Kohlenberg said.
"Manpower is going to be huge," he said. "They’re going to do an $85 million building two blocks east of us, and that will spur retail, office and residential development."
Park East Update
Plans are finally coming together for redevelopment along the Park East Freeway corridor in downtown Milwaukee. The projects in the works include:
- Deerfield, Ill.-based Legacy Real Estate Partners plans to build the Flatiron, a five-story building on a sloped, triangular-shaped piece of property at Water, Jefferson and Pleasant streets. The building will have 38 condominiums and 2,861 square feet of retail space.
- Buyers have reserved nine of the condos so far, according to Legacy principal Rod Engel. The company needs one more reservation to begin construction, he said. Construction is expected to begin by late spring and be completed by the summer of 2007.
- Manpower Inc. will move its corporate headquarters into a new, 280,000-square-foot office building that will be developed by Gary Grunau along the west side of the Milwaukee River, just south of Cherry Street, between Schlitz Park and the Time Warner building. Construction is expected to begin this spring and be completed in mid-2007.
- The Terraces at River Bluff will be developed by Big Bend Development. The project will include 130 condominiums at the former Milwaukee Center for Independence site, 1339 N. Milwaukee St. The site is bordered by Ogden Avenue, Broadway, Milwaukee and Knapp streets. The project will include two 13-story towers and eight three-story townhouses. Construction is expected to begin in the second half of this year. It will take about two years to complete construction.
- Chicago-based RSC & Associates plans to build a condominium and retail development on two acres bordered by Milwaukee, Jefferson and Lyon streets and Ogden Avenue. The development will have 140 condominiums and up to 50,000 square feet of retail space. The company plans to begin construction in the fall and finish the project by the end of 2007.
- RSC & Associates also plans to build a $72 million condominium and retail development on two acres bordered by Broadway, Milwaukee and Water streets and Ogden Avenue. The project would include about 160 condominiums, 15 townhomes and about 184,000 square feet of retail space. The company plans to begin construction in the spring of 2007 and finish the project by the end of 2008 or early 2009.
- Brookfield-based MLG Development Inc. plans to build a four-story, 44,000-square-foot building with retail space on the first floor and office space on the upper floors on a 16,300-square-foot triangular-shaped property bordered by Water, Knapp and Edison streets. MLG Development also plans to build two buildings just west of that site, along the Milwaukee River, with about 90 condominiums and retail space on the first floor.
- Mequon-based Ruvin Development Inc. plans to redevelop part of the Sydney Hih building at 300 W. Juneau Ave., in the northwest corner of Old World Third Street and Juneau Avenue. The company plans to move the former Gipfel Brewery from 423-27 W. Juneau Ave. to a site just west of the Sydney Hih building and build a 12-story condo tower to the north of Sydney Hih. Ruvin Development president Rob Ruvin said he hopes to break ground in late summer or fall and complete construction in a year.
- Zilber Ltd. has until mid-March to exercise its option to purchase the 24-acre abandoned Pabst brewery from Wispark LLC and Cleveland-based Ferchill Group. If it acquires the property, Zilber plans to do a mixed-use development transforming the former brewery into a neighborhood with residences, stores and office space.