Water Council plans $20 million redevelopment of Walker’s Point warehouse

The Milwaukee Water Council announced a $20 million plan to redevelop a 105-year-old, seven-story warehouse at 223 W. Pittsburgh Ave. into a water research and business accelerator building.

The building will house water-related research activities for universities, existing water-related companies, the Water Council, companies promoting business development, and accelerator space for new, emerging water-related companies. One possible tenant in the building is the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which plans to place part of its School of Freshwater Sciences in the area. The rest of the School of Freshwater Sciences will be located at its Great Lakes WATER Institute at 600 E. Greenfield Ave., which will undergo a $50 million expansion.

Eventually, once sufficient funds are raised, UWM wants to build its own School of Freshwater Sciences building near the building that the Water Council plans to redevelop. The Great Lakes WATER Institute will remain focused on environmental water issues, while the School of Freshwater Sciences operations at or near the Water Council facility will focus on water technology applications for business, said UWM spokesman Tom Luljak.

A.O. Smith Corp. and Badger Meter Inc. also were cited by the Water Council as possible tenants that could use the building. Additional water technology companies have expressed interest in the research center and will be announced later, the Water Council said.
The first floor of the building will feature a lecture hall, exhibition space for new prototypes, a common gathering area and a shared water flow lab that will be provided by Badger Meter.

“The flow lab is a necessary but expensive piece of equipment for water research and product development,” said Richard Meeusen, co-chair of the Water Council and chairman, president and chief executive officer of Brown Deer-based Badger Meter. “Instead of waiting weeks and spending a substantial amount of money, building tenants will be able to get nearly instantaneous results at relatively no cost, which is unheard of in the United States.”

The 98,000-square-foot building is located in the city’s Walker’s Point neighborhood. It will be owned by a group of private investors and developed by HKS Holdings LLC. Kahler Slater is the architect and KBS Construction is the general contractor for the project.

In 2007, developer Tim Olson announced plans to convert the building into an upscale apartment complex, but those plans fell through. The building was previously occupied by Shelton-Reynolds Inc., an industrial fabrics and webbing distributor.

The building is located adjacent to the Reed Street Yards, a 17-acre vacant former rail and trucking yard located south of the Harley-Davidson Museum in the Menomonee Valley and owned by developer Peter Moede of Milwaukee-based Atlas Development Corp.

City officials have worked to assist Moede in creating a water technology business park on the Reed Street Yards. Officials hope the Water Council’s water research and business accelerator building will be a catalyst to spark development of the water technology business park.

Construction for the Water Council’s water research and business accelerator building is expected to begin in 2012. The Water Council is working to finalize leasing arrangements with tenants and gain approval for the project from the city.
Once the project is complete, the Water Council expects 125 people to work in the building.

“I am pleased this project is moving forward,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. “It has the potential to foster innovation and job creation for Milwaukee and the region. The development of this center is a solid example of the private sector, academia and government working together in partnership to solidify Milwaukee’s position as a global water technology leader.”

A portion of the project will be financed through a combination of new market tax credits and historic tax credits. The project is being supported by the Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation.

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