The project, called Park East Square, is planned for a block bounded by Milwaukee, Jefferson and Lyon streets and Ogden Avenue. It has been delayed for years because Oak Park, Ill.-based RSC & Associates has been unable to obtain financing.
RSC added Wauwatosa-based Wangard Partners as a partner for the project. However, members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) objected because Wangard replaced a unionized janitorial firm with a non-union firm to handle cleaning services at the 875 East office building at 875 E. Wisconsin Ave. in downtown Milwaukee.
See BizTimes Milwaukee's previous coverage of the SEIU dispute with Wangard.
The committee voted to delay its decision on the Park East Square project until July.
All developments on Park East land sold by the county, including the Park East Square site, are subject to the Park East Redevelopment Compact (PERC), which requires developers to pay union wages for the construction projects and to provide other community benefits. Critics of the PERC say it has contributed to the lack of development in the Park East corridor.
Superivisor Joe Sanfelippo blasted the committee's action.
"Although the property where this alleged crime against humanity (firing a union company) took place is privately owned and has nothing whatsoever to do with Milwaukee County, four committee members acquiesced to the union's demand," Sanfelippo said in a news release. "After the Park East Freeway was demolished, the County Board piled on so many overburdening restrictions for building on this land, it became virtually unsellable even during one of the biggest economic and development boom-times downtown Milwaukee has ever seen. That is why, for more than a decade, Milwaukee County has been desperately trying to find developers willing to take a risk and invest their own dollars in this strip of land. This particular project (Park East Square) has been planned since 2007, but until recently was unable to secure the financing required to proceed. Now, it finally has the financial green light, and the Board is going to stall it because the janitor's union said so. This project will create hundreds of high paying construction jobs in one of the poorest cities in the country. Once completed, it will provide vital permanent jobs in area of unacceptably high unemployment while generating hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in taxes and fees to area governments. I am calling on the Economic and Community Development Committee to hold a special meeting prior to the next scheduled County Board meeting to approve this project in time for Board approval on June 28. After all, it is economic and community development that we should be concerned about, not the janitor unions customer base."