BMO Tower completion, Harbor District projects to highlight 2019

Economic Trends 2019

The completion of the BMO Tower in downtown Milwaukee and the beginning of major development projects in the city’s Harbor District will be some of the area’s biggest commercial real estate highlights of 2019.

The Harbor District caught the spotlight in August after Brownsville-based infrastructure contractor Michels Corp. announced a $100 million mixed-use project along the Kinnickinnic River. The first phase of the project, which includes an eight-story building to be occupied by Michels Corp., is expected to be completed by next summer.

A rendering of the planned Komatsu Mining Corp. headquarters in Milwaukee’s Harbor District.
Credit: Zimmerman Architectural Studios

Then Komatsu Mining Corp. announced in late September its plans for a new $285 million corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility at the former Solvay Coke site, also in the Harbor District. Company officials say they plan to have contractors selected by the end of the first quarter, with construction starting later in the year.

Rocky Marcoux, commissioner of Milwaukee’s Department of City Development, praised the projects. He said they have the potential to ignite even further development in the Harbor District – in particular the Komatsu headquarters, since it removes the single largest environmentally challenged property in the city.

“Without that domino falling, it would have been very difficult to build a cohesive plan (for the district),” he said.

Office

Work on the 25-story BMO Tower is expected to wrap up by December. The 380,800-square-foot office building is going up next to the bank’s current downtown Milwaukee office building at 770 N. Water St. The bank will move roughly 875 employees to the new building. Downtown Milwaukee law firm Michael Best & Friedrich’s 235 employees will also occupy three floors of the building.

An 11-story mixed-use building being developed by J. Jeffers & Co. at the corner of North Broadway and East Clybourn Street is expected to break ground this year. The project grabbed headlines in December after law firm Husch Blackwell LLP announced it would occupy the top three stories.

Industrial

The area’s industrial market is poised for another strong year, said Jim Barry III, president of Milwaukee-based The Barry Co. He pointed to historically low vacancy rates of 4 percent market-wide, steadily increasing rental rates, and the amount of speculative projects.

“There are a number of projects that are speculative or semi-speculative that shows confidence in the market,” Barry said. “That’s going to continue through the next year.”

Leonardo DRS Inc. made a splash in late 2018, announcing it will build a new $56 million manufacturing facility and offices in Menomonee Falls.

To the south, Amazon will build a 2.5 million-square-foot, four-story warehouse and distribution facility in the Ryan Business Park in Oak Creek. Construction of the building could be complete in 2020.

Construction will continue on the massive, $10 billion Foxconn LCD manufacturing complex in Mount Pleasant.

There continue to be numerous industrial developments in Kenosha County, as well, such as the 94 Logistics Park project in Kenosha. The first phase includes 750,000-square-foot and 288,000-square-foot buildings, and is set to finish in mid-2019.

Multifamily

Milwaukee’s skyline could be transformed once again if construction activity begins this year on new apartment tower projects.

Perhaps the most anticipated is The Couture, a 44-story, 322-unit luxury apartment building that has been years in the making. In November, project developer Barrett Lo Visionary Development announced the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development asked that it submit additional information for its loan guarantee application, signaling that needed financing would soon be secured. Construction could start this spring.

Meanwhile, Wangard Partners Inc. recently detailed its plans to build up to 250 condo units at the corner of East Brady and North Water streets on the city’s East Side. The development, known as Brady & Water, is to be built in three phases, with the first including up to 70 units. Construction is slated to begin this summer.

To the south, developer Scott Lurie has plans to build new apartments and retail space along Kinnickinnic Avenue, with development plans calling for about 200 units. The project is being criticized by some neighbors in the Bay View neighborhood, who claim it is too dense for the area.

Hotels

The new year started off with Odyssey Glendale Hotel LLC introducing plans to build a new 90-room Hampton Inn hotel near the corner of North Port Washington Road and West Green Tree Road in Glendale. This would be the third hotel on that block.

The conversion of an office building into a 196-room Renaissance Hotel by Marriott on Wauwatosa’s Mayfair Mall campus is expected to be finished by April 2020.

In downtown Milwaukee, a four-story, 132-room Cambria Hotel and a 200-room Drury Hotel are scheduled to open this summer. Construction is expected to begin this year for a dual brand Home2Suites by Hilton and Tru by Hilton hotel and a Holiday Inn Express hotel along Jefferson Street between Michigan and Clybourn streets.

The completion of the BMO Tower in downtown Milwaukee and the beginning of major development projects in the city’s Harbor District will be some of the area’s biggest commercial real estate highlights of 2019.

The Harbor District caught the spotlight in August after Brownsville-based infrastructure contractor Michels Corp. announced a $100 million mixed-use project along the Kinnickinnic River. The first phase of the project, which includes an eight-story building to be occupied by Michels Corp., is expected to be completed by next summer.

A rendering of the planned Komatsu Mining Corp. headquarters in Milwaukee’s Harbor District.
Credit: Zimmerman Architectural Studios

Then Komatsu Mining Corp. announced in late September its plans for a new $285 million corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility at the former Solvay Coke site, also in the Harbor District. Company officials say they plan to have contractors selected by the end of the first quarter, with construction starting later in the year.

Rocky Marcoux, commissioner of Milwaukee’s Department of City Development, praised the projects. He said they have the potential to ignite even further development in the Harbor District – in particular the Komatsu headquarters, since it removes the single largest environmentally challenged property in the city.

“Without that domino falling, it would have been very difficult to build a cohesive plan (for the district),” he said.

Office

Work on the 25-story BMO Tower is expected to wrap up by December. The 380,800-square-foot office building is going up next to the bank’s current downtown Milwaukee office building at 770 N. Water St. The bank will move roughly 875 employees to the new building. Downtown Milwaukee law firm Michael Best & Friedrich’s 235 employees will also occupy three floors of the building.

An 11-story mixed-use building being developed by J. Jeffers & Co. at the corner of North Broadway and East Clybourn Street is expected to break ground this year. The project grabbed headlines in December after law firm Husch Blackwell LLP announced it would occupy the top three stories.

Industrial

The area’s industrial market is poised for another strong year, said Jim Barry III, president of Milwaukee-based The Barry Co. He pointed to historically low vacancy rates of 4 percent market-wide, steadily increasing rental rates, and the amount of speculative projects.

“There are a number of projects that are speculative or semi-speculative that shows confidence in the market,” Barry said. “That’s going to continue through the next year.”

Leonardo DRS Inc. made a splash in late 2018, announcing it will build a new $56 million manufacturing facility and offices in Menomonee Falls.

To the south, Amazon will build a 2.5 million-square-foot, four-story warehouse and distribution facility in the Ryan Business Park in Oak Creek. Construction of the building could be complete in 2020.

Construction will continue on the massive, $10 billion Foxconn LCD manufacturing complex in Mount Pleasant.

There continue to be numerous industrial developments in Kenosha County, as well, such as the 94 Logistics Park project in Kenosha. The first phase includes 750,000-square-foot and 288,000-square-foot buildings, and is set to finish in mid-2019.

Multifamily

Milwaukee’s skyline could be transformed once again if construction activity begins this year on new apartment tower projects.

Perhaps the most anticipated is The Couture, a 44-story, 322-unit luxury apartment building that has been years in the making. In November, project developer Barrett Lo Visionary Development announced the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development asked that it submit additional information for its loan guarantee application, signaling that needed financing would soon be secured. Construction could start this spring.

Meanwhile, Wangard Partners Inc. recently detailed its plans to build up to 250 condo units at the corner of East Brady and North Water streets on the city’s East Side. The development, known as Brady & Water, is to be built in three phases, with the first including up to 70 units. Construction is slated to begin this summer.

To the south, developer Scott Lurie has plans to build new apartments and retail space along Kinnickinnic Avenue, with development plans calling for about 200 units. The project is being criticized by some neighbors in the Bay View neighborhood, who claim it is too dense for the area.

Hotels

The new year started off with Odyssey Glendale Hotel LLC introducing plans to build a new 90-room Hampton Inn hotel near the corner of North Port Washington Road and West Green Tree Road in Glendale. This would be the third hotel on that block.

The conversion of an office building into a 196-room Renaissance Hotel by Marriott on Wauwatosa’s Mayfair Mall campus is expected to be finished by April 2020.

In downtown Milwaukee, a four-story, 132-room Cambria Hotel and a 200-room Drury Hotel are scheduled to open this summer. Construction is expected to begin this year for a dual brand Home2Suites by Hilton and Tru by Hilton hotel and a Holiday Inn Express hotel along Jefferson Street between Michigan and Clybourn streets.

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