Richard "Rocky" Marcoux, commissioner of the Milwaukee Department of City Development (DCD), announced today that the 30th Street industrial corridor "will be the next Menomonee River Valley" of redevelopment.
Speaking at the fourth annual Small Business Times Commercial Real Estate & Development Conference at the Pfister Hotel this morning, Marcoux said the city will devise a plan to transform the 30th Street corridor, which is home to several businesses, including DRS Power & Control Technologies Inc., Master Lock Co. and Eaton Corp.
However, the corridor has several abandoned brownfield sites in a part of the city that desperately needs more jobs, Marcoux said.
"We need to work together to turn every brownfield into a greenfield," Marcoux said. "We have so many brownfields, all of which are convertible."
Marcoux gave the opening remarks to today's conference, which attracted more than 350 people. Marcoux said the city will "wrap a team around" any developer interested in investing in one of the city's brownfield sites. He encouraged developers to call the DCD at (414) 286-8682.
Another one of the speakers at the conference, Peter Hollingworth, president and chief executive officer of Sacramento, Calif.-based Continental Environmental Redevelopment Fund, said his company is partnering with a group of investors to provide $250 million of financing for brownfield projects throughout the United States over the next two years.
Hollingworth said several people expressed interest during this morning's conference, so he may provide the financing for some brownfield redevelopment in the Milwaukee area.
"We've got plenty of money for sunny and warm Wisconsin," Hollingworth said, noting today's unseasonably warm weather.
Nationally, brownfield redevelopment represents a $2.5 trillion market, full of opportunities, Hollingworth said.
"That's a very big market, and it's growing every day," he said. "The private sector has got to get into brownfield development, because there is not enough public funding in the world to take care of all of the brownfields."
Improvements in environmental cleanup technology are making brownfield redevelopment more common, according to Hollingworth and Robert Colangelo, founder and executive director of the National Brownfield Association.
"Brownfield transactions aren't easy," Colangelo said. "But every day, we see brownfields getting (redeveloped) because the technology is increasing and they just aren't as risky as they used to be."
The Sarbanes-Oxley law will fuel a dramatic rise in brownfields, as publicly held companies will need to disclose their contaminated properties because of the potential costs and legal liabilities, Colangelo said.
"They are under increased pressure to sell and get them off of their balance sheets," Colangelo said.
Colangelo said he views Milwaukee as a "buying opportunity" for brownfield redevelopment because property values here are relatively low, considering the city's amenities, including its proximity to Lake Michigan.
"You make money in the real estate market when you buy," Colangelo said. “You have to buy at the right price. If you're going to buy a brownfield in this market, you have to price it properly."
Richard Carlson, president of Whitnall Summit Co., spoke about how he transformed the former Allis-Chalmers plant into the $50 million Summit Place complex in West Allis. The success of Summit Place is fueling additional development nearby, he said.
"Is that the end of the storyω I think it's just the beginning," Carlson said.
Mark Eppli, PhD., professor and chair of the Bell Real Estate Program at Marquette University, honored outgoing Kenosha mayor John Antaramian with the Robert B. Bell Sr. Best Public Partner Award for his work to revitalize Kenosha and redevelop brownfields in that city.
"No one individual turns a community around," Antaramian said. "It takes a lot of people willing to take risks."
An edited audio-video feed of today's conference will be posted at www.biztimes.com next week.