Downtown Park East block back on market as development activity booms in area

Real Estate Spotlight

The last remaining Milwaukee County-controlled Park East parcel is back on the market, and county officials say the time is right for this site to join the others around it in being redeveloped.

In April, the county issued a request for proposals seeking those interested in acquiring and developing the downtown parcel, known as Block 22, of the former Park East freeway corridor. The block is bordered by North Water Street, North Milwaukee Street, East Ogden Avenue and North Broadway.

Milwaukee County has put Park East Block 22 back on the market for development proposals.

Some developers consider the roughly 2.1-acre parcel to be an ideal spot for a mixed-use development, especially considering the number of similar projects going up around it.

The Park East corridor looks very different from when the freeway was removed in 2002. The elevated freeway was replaced with the at-grade West McKinley Avenue, allowing for the reestablishment of the city street grid and opening up the land underneath it for redevelopment.

According to the county, private development in and along the corridor has spurred more than $2 billion in economic impact over the past several years. Developments include the Fiserv Forum, the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center, residential and mixed-use developments including The Moderne high-rise, and new office buildings for Bader Rutter, ManpowerGroup and Hammes Co. LLC.

“The Park East corridor has grown tremendously over the past several years, and the sale of Block 22 will be the capstone of development on a once-desolate area of Milwaukee,” County Executive Chris Abele said in a statement.

In fact, the county had previously selected a project that would go up at the site. In 2015, Wauwatosa-based Wangard Partners Inc. and its development proposal had been selected by the county. Wangard’s proposal called for a $52 million development consisting of 250 apartments, 70,000 square feet of retail space and a parking garage.

That project never moved forward, and in 2018 the developer’s option had expired, said Aaron Hertzberg, director of economic development for Milwaukee County. Wangard requested an extension, but county officials instead opted to put out another RFP in hopes of getting development moving on the site.

Moreover, the land has appreciated significantly since the first RFP. The county was originally to sell the land to Wangard for $2.5 million, but officials are now hopeful the site will command an even higher price, Hertzberg said.

Stewart Wangard, chief executive officer and chairman of Wangard, said the site is in a “very vibrant area.” His firm developed the Avenir Apartments to the east of Block 22, near the southeast corner of East Lyon Street and North Milwaukee Street, as well as the Bader Rutter building to the west, near the northeast corner of North Broadway and North Water Street.

Wangard said his firm is considering submitting a proposal again for the Block 22 site, but first has to determine whether it fits in with the rest of its development schedule.

“It’s an ideal mixed-use site,” he said. “If somebody can address some of the engineering issues, I think it’s one of the finest remaining sites available in the city.”

Those engineering issues include the more than 30-foot change in grade from one end of the site to the other.

Robert Monnat, a partner at Milwaukee-based Mandel Group Inc., said his firm is interested in the site, as well. Mandel developed the multi-phase North End apartment development across North Water Street from the site.

“It’s a parcel we have had some interest in because we feel that as a result of our last two phases on North End … that we’ve created a lot of value,” he said.

Monnat said if Mandel responds to the county RFP, it would propose uses that are in line with feedback provided by North End residents through surveys. The project would be mixed-use, likely with fewer residential units and more commercial space than buildings at the North End, he said.

Wangard feels differently about the prospect of apartments there. He acknowledged some are concerned the area has seen enough apartment developments, but said he expected the continued growth of commercial developments in the area would support more residential units.

Hertzberg said the county would perform a first review of Block 22 RFP submissions in August. Once officials find a viable offer, they will move forward with an award. ν

The last remaining Milwaukee County-controlled Park East parcel is back on the market, and county officials say the time is right for this site to join the others around it in being redeveloped.

In April, the county issued a request for proposals seeking those interested in acquiring and developing the downtown parcel, known as Block 22, of the former Park East freeway corridor. The block is bordered by North Water Street, North Milwaukee Street, East Ogden Avenue and North Broadway.

Milwaukee County has put Park East Block 22 back on the market for development proposals.

Some developers consider the roughly 2.1-acre parcel to be an ideal spot for a mixed-use development, especially considering the number of similar projects going up around it.

The Park East corridor looks very different from when the freeway was removed in 2002. The elevated freeway was replaced with the at-grade West McKinley Avenue, allowing for the reestablishment of the city street grid and opening up the land underneath it for redevelopment.

According to the county, private development in and along the corridor has spurred more than $2 billion in economic impact over the past several years. Developments include the Fiserv Forum, the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center, residential and mixed-use developments including The Moderne high-rise, and new office buildings for Bader Rutter, ManpowerGroup and Hammes Co. LLC.

“The Park East corridor has grown tremendously over the past several years, and the sale of Block 22 will be the capstone of development on a once-desolate area of Milwaukee,” County Executive Chris Abele said in a statement.

In fact, the county had previously selected a project that would go up at the site. In 2015, Wauwatosa-based Wangard Partners Inc. and its development proposal had been selected by the county. Wangard’s proposal called for a $52 million development consisting of 250 apartments, 70,000 square feet of retail space and a parking garage.

That project never moved forward, and in 2018 the developer’s option had expired, said Aaron Hertzberg, director of economic development for Milwaukee County. Wangard requested an extension, but county officials instead opted to put out another RFP in hopes of getting development moving on the site.

Moreover, the land has appreciated significantly since the first RFP. The county was originally to sell the land to Wangard for $2.5 million, but officials are now hopeful the site will command an even higher price, Hertzberg said.

Stewart Wangard, chief executive officer and chairman of Wangard, said the site is in a “very vibrant area.” His firm developed the Avenir Apartments to the east of Block 22, near the southeast corner of East Lyon Street and North Milwaukee Street, as well as the Bader Rutter building to the west, near the northeast corner of North Broadway and North Water Street.

Wangard said his firm is considering submitting a proposal again for the Block 22 site, but first has to determine whether it fits in with the rest of its development schedule.

“It’s an ideal mixed-use site,” he said. “If somebody can address some of the engineering issues, I think it’s one of the finest remaining sites available in the city.”

Those engineering issues include the more than 30-foot change in grade from one end of the site to the other.

Robert Monnat, a partner at Milwaukee-based Mandel Group Inc., said his firm is interested in the site, as well. Mandel developed the multi-phase North End apartment development across North Water Street from the site.

“It’s a parcel we have had some interest in because we feel that as a result of our last two phases on North End … that we’ve created a lot of value,” he said.

Monnat said if Mandel responds to the county RFP, it would propose uses that are in line with feedback provided by North End residents through surveys. The project would be mixed-use, likely with fewer residential units and more commercial space than buildings at the North End, he said.

Wangard feels differently about the prospect of apartments there. He acknowledged some are concerned the area has seen enough apartment developments, but said he expected the continued growth of commercial developments in the area would support more residential units.

Hertzberg said the county would perform a first review of Block 22 RFP submissions in August. Once officials find a viable offer, they will move forward with an award. ν

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