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Officials OK revised plans for Komatsu HQ

A rendering showing revised plans for the $285 million headquarters the mining company Komatsu is proposing to build in Milwaukee. Among other changes, the plans now call for there to be a skywalk linking the proposed office and manufacturing plant and a parking structure for 600 cars. (Rendering courtesy of Eppstein Uhen Architects)

A rendering showing revised plans for the $285 million headquarters the mining company Komatsu is proposing to build in Milwaukee. Among other changes, the plans now call for there to be a skywalk linking the proposed office and manufacturing plant and a parking structure for 600 cars. (Rendering courtesy of Eppstein Uhen Architects)

Milwaukee officials approved plans on Monday for Komatsu’s proposed $285 million waterfront headquarters in the city, in a step forward for a project that could break ground next spring.

Komatsu, a large manufacturer of mining equipment, announced plans last year to build a main office and manufacturing operation on a site in Milwaukee’s Harbor District. Komatsu Mining Corp. is a subsidiary of the Tokyo-based Komatsu limited, and chose Milwaukee for its North American headquarters in 2017 after purchasing Joy Global.

Milwaukee’s Plan Commission on Monday reviewed various revisions to Komatsu’s plans for its headquarters. The company intends to build a three-story, 170,000-square-foot office, an automation lab, a museum and a more-than-400,000-square-foot manufacturing campus at a 57-acre site where the Solvay Coke company once operated. The company said in March that it had picked the general contractor Hunzinger Construction, of Brookfield, along with Graef and Eppstein Uhen Architects, both of Milwaukee, for the project’s design and construction.

Among the nine revisions the commission reviewed on Monday, the plans now call for there to be a skywalk linking the proposed office and manufacturing plant and a parking structure for 600 cars. Greg Uhen, CEO of Eppstein Uhen Architects, said crews will begin grading the site in September and utility work will follow in November. The company hopes to break ground in March, and finish the work two years later, in 2022.

“It’s a site that has great attributes, but it also has a tremendous number of challenges,” Uhen said.

The Komatsu site sat vacant for many years and remained heavily polluted industrial production stemming from the decades when it had been the site of the Solvay Coke plant. We Energies, which owned much of the land, is working to clean up the site, said Matt Beaudry, of Komatsu, after the commission member Whitney Gould asked about remaining pollution on the property.

“I’ve been on that site, and it was unbelievably dirty, down for many feet,” Gould said.

Beaudry and Uhen said the plans incorporate various “green” features.

The company is seeking LEED certification for the headquarters and plans to place a solar array on top of the manufacturing plant and to make use of bioswales to filter pollutants out of runoff. The designs rely on glass to give the plant an open feel. Public plazas will meanwhile provide a “welcoming” setting to passersby, Uhen said.

Some local officials have hailed the project as a revitalization of Milwaukee’s post-industrial harbor district. The utility contractor Michels Corp. also announced plans last summer to build a mixed-use development nearby, a project that could ultimately cost $100 million.

City officials previously approved a deal that could give the company as much as $25 million in direct incentives if Komatsu ultimately creates 1,300 jobs at the site. Komatsu has said the plant would employ nearly 600 people initially. The city could also spend $15 milllion on a riverwalk that would circle the property, although the city’s plan commission did not consider riverwalk plans on Monday.

The project also requires 25 percent of the contractors that work on the headquarters to be certified Small Business Enterprises and 40 percent of the construction workers to be Milwaukee residents.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is also offering the company as much as $59.5 million worth of state income-tax credits over the next 12 years.

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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