Richard “Rocky” Marcoux
Commissioner of the Department of City Development

General Contact Information: Department of City Development, 809 N. Broadway, Milwaukee 53202, (414) 286-5800,

The Department of City Development (DCD) is the planning, redevelopment, economic development, and public housing agency of the City of Milwaukee. DCD staffs Milwaukee’s Development Center (one-stop permit center), Redevelopment Authority (RACM), Housing Authority, City Plan Commission (CPC), Historic Preservation Commission, as well as the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation and the Milwaukee Arts Board.

Comprehensive Plan: The City’s Comprehensive Plan consists of various area and functional plans. The City has adopted four Principles of Urban Design that guide planning and land use decisions. Plans are created in collaboration with key neighborhood organizations with broad public participation. Adopted plans include: Northwest Side (1988), Riverwalk (1992), LakeFront (1994), Downtown Historic Preservation (1996), Menomonee Valley (1998), Downtown (1999), and the Public Outdoor Recreation (2001), Fond du Lac and North (2004), Near West Side (2004), the Third Ward (2005)  and Washington Park.  Other plans currently underway include:  City-wide policy plan, Update of Downtown Plan,  Near North Side, Northeast Side, Northwest Side,  West Side, Near South, and Southeast  Side.  DCD prepares Redevelopment Plans on behalf of the Redevelopment Authority for specific areas. Recent plans include:  20th & Brown,  Avenues West, Bronzeville,  Capitol & 35th , Park East, Greentree Business Park, and Menomonee Valley East End.

Basic process of approval or denial of a development plan:

– The critical approval path for a development plan varies, depending on the nature of the plan. Development proposals that conform to the use and design requirements of Milwaukee’s zoning ordinance require review only for compliance with state and local building, mechanical, fire protection and stormwater codes. New construction projects also are reviewed for their impact on the city’s infrastructure. Under the terms of a cooperative agreement with the state Department of Commerce, Safety and Buildings Division, the Development Center plan examiners are authorized to review plans for state, as well as local code compliance. Plans are submitted to the Development Center on an appointment basis. To schedule an appointment, call (414) 286-8210. For information about plan submittal requirements, see Development proposals that do not meet the use or design requirements of the zoning ordinance may proceed along one of three alternate paths. Once these processes are completed, the plans are submitted to the Development Center for building code compliance and infrastructure review. The applicant may seek a special use permit or use or dimensional variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals. An appeal is filed after a Development Center plan examiner has identified the non-conforming aspects of the plan and issued a denial letter to the applicant. Information about zoning appeals submittal requirements and hearing schedules is available on-line at The applicant may seek a zoning change for the property*. Applicants seeking zoning changes, including planned development zoning matters, work with the planning administration section at the Department of City Development. The staff will work with the applicant to develop a calendar including target dates for submission of materials and public meetings. The applicant may seek to have a site plan overlay district* created for the subject property. The planning administration section of the Department of City Development assists applicants through the review process.

– A zoning change, as well as the creation of a site plan overlay district, require public hearings before the City Plan Commission and Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee of the Common Council, and approval by the full Milwaukee Common Council. Application materials for a zoning change and for a site plan overlay district are available on-line at build. Click on “customer information and applications.”)

– The City of Milwaukee has established a development roundtable process to facilitate pre-development review of complex projects that require reviews from multiple departments and agencies. The roundtable process brings the development team together with city staff who will be reviewing the project, in an effort to identify critical issues that must be addressed in the project design. Such issues could include traffic circulation, stormwater management, building code concerns, infrastructure and urban design. A pre-development roundtable may be scheduled when the development team can supply schematic building and site plans. For more information, contact the Milwaukee Development Center manager at (414) 286-5830.

TIF Districts: The City of Milwaukee currently has 48 active TIF districts located throughout the city. The City creates TIF districts on a case-by-case basis and looks to fund gaps to make projects more economically feasible. Typically, funds generated through a TIF fund public infrastructure (parking structure, site clean up, roads, and utilities).

Redevelopment Aid: The City offers grants, financing and tax incentives for businesses and developers. For information on any of the following programs, call 414-286-5812 for more info. MEDC is the City’s real estate and business lending arm. Products include tax-exempt industrial revenue bonds (IRBs) and subordinated loans with a long-term financing with a fixed, low interest rate. MEDC staff will work with customers to identify additional sources of funds from SBA, WHEDA, WWBIC and the Department of Commerce.

Tax Incentives: There are several state and federal tax incentive programs available to Milwaukee area businesses, including:

– Technology Zone Tax Credits – Offset up to three years of Wisconsin sales, income, and property taxes for new or expanding businesses engaged in certain high-technology business clusters. Up to $500,000 per project.

– Community Development Zone Tax Credits

– Tax credits to businesses expanding in industrially zoned areas of Milwaukee. Provides a non-refundable Wisconsin income tax credit of up to $6,000 for all new full-time jobs created and $8,000 credit for full-time jobs filled by members of target groups.

– Renewal Community tax incentives are available to businesses located in or moving to Milwaukee’s Renewal Community – a targeted area of Milwaukee designated by the Federal government. Federal tax breaks include wage credits, zero percent capital gains rate, as well as accelerated depreciation on real property and machinery/equipment. Milwaukee is one of 40 communities in the country with this special designation. See


– Brownfield Site Assessment Matching Grant

– Matching funds available for existing and potential property owners. Up to $25,000 for site assessment, sampling and remedial action plans for sites located within the city

– Facade Improvement Grants – Matching grants of 50% or $5,000 to commercial businesses to improve the street facing exterior of commercial buildings

– The Retail Investment Fund – Matching grand funds for retail businesses creating new jobs ($5,000 for each new job created). Grant proceeds can fund the purchase of furniture and equipment and/or costs associated with environmental cleanup, architecture and engineering.


– From permitting, to plan review, to financing, to site location assistance, the City of Milwaukee provides assistance and regulatory review on hundreds of projects on an annual basis.

-Some highlights in recent years:

– Beerline “B” – Redevelopment of a former industrial corridor along the Milwaukee River into a new residential neighborhood.   Since 1997, more than 652 new housing units have been completed or are under construction, representing $128 million in new investment.

– Park East – Removed a half-mile freeway spur to open up 26 acres of office, housing and retail development. The redevelopment of this corridor will yield more than $250 million in new development.

– Menomonee Valley – Formerly the heart of Milwaukee’s industry, the Valley represents the city’s greatest opportunity to create industrial, family-supporting jobs. DCD and its partners are assembling, cleaning and preparing sites for redevelopment. Over the next 10 years, it is projected that 3 million square feet of new construction will occur in the Valley.

– Midtown Center – The redevelopment of the former Capitol Court into more than 600,000 sq. ft.  of retail space and a new medical clinic representing an investment of over $60 million.

– Lindsay Heights and City Homes

– Two housing development programs aimed to increase homeownership in Midtown neighborhood.

Fee Schedule:  The web site of the Milwaukee Development Center is a comprehensive resource for information about development, building permit, and plan examination fees.  The site can be found at Click on “customer information and applications” for links to fee information. Detailed information about mechanical permit fees is available in the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances, sect. 200-33. This portion of the code is available on-line at code/volume2/200-sub5.doc.

Time Schedule for plan approval:

Unlike other communities in metropolitan Milwaukee, the City of Milwaukee provides comprehensive development project review, including zoning, infrastructure, and building code compliance. The complexity of a project directly influences the amount of time required to review it.

• Review times are shortest for projects that conform to the use and design requirements of Milwaukee’s zoning ordinance and require only building code compliance review.

•The Milwaukee Development Center reviews many interior alteration projects on the same day plans are submitted.

• New construction and major alteration plans are reviewed within 15 to 25 working days after all required documentation is supplied to the Development Center.

• Developers required to seek a special use or use or dimensional variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals should expect to add six to eight weeks to the permit approval process.

• Developers seeking a zoning change or creation of a site plan overlay district should add three to four months to the permit approval process.

Building or Growth Moratoria: There are currently no building or growth moratoria in place for the City of Milwaukee.

Environmental Issues: To expedite the redevelopment of brownfields sites, DCD staff offers various levels of assistance to developers and property owners including: environmental testing, identification of grant funds, and help through the foreclosure process on tax delinquent properties. In addition, DCD maintains a log of brownfields sites located throughout the city, some of which are tax delinquent. For more information see brownfields/bfsites or call 414-286-5812.

Comments are closed.