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Wisconsin Center District picks Gilbane, C.D. Smith for convention overhaul

A rendering depicting plans for the expansion of the Wisconsin Center District's convention center in downtown Milwaukee. (Rendering courtesy of Populous)

A rendering depicting plans for the expansion of the Wisconsin Center District’s convention center in downtown Milwaukee. (Rendering courtesy of Populous)

The Wisconsin Center District board has picked the contractors Gilbane Construction and C.D. Smith to manage a $300 million overhaul of the downtown Milwaukee convention center.

The board announced its pick Friday evening after releasing an invitation to bid on the project in late November and picking a design team in mid-December. The center district is planning an expansion of the convention space and hopes to begin construction in the first quarter of 2021.

The Rhode Island-based contractor Gilbane and C.D. Smith of C.D. Smith will oversee the planned reconstruction of the Wisconsin Center as part of a joint venture. The board also received pitches from three other teams. The first was composed of J.H. Findorff & Son, of Madison, and the Concord Group, of Chicago; the second of Clark Construction, of Maryland, and Hunzinger Construction, of Brookfield; and the third of AECOM Hunt, of Indianapolis, and CG Schmidt, of Milwaukee.

“The selection of construction manager is a critical milestone in the continued progression of the expansion of the Wisconsin Center. We had several very well qualified bids,” said Wisconsin Center District President and CEO Marty Brooks. “The combined experience that Gilbane Smith have working together, along with their competitive fee structure, was what truly set them apart.”

Early plans call for nearly doubling the size of the existing Wisconsin Center. The project would overhaul the space and build an addition onto a connected parking lot at the corner of West Kilbourn Avenue and Vel R. Phillips Avenue. It’s a project whose cost could approach $300 million after the Legislature included a provision in the state’s biennial budget increasing by $100 million the state’s pledge to back district-issued debt.

The board had previously selected a joint venture composed of Eppstein Uhen Architects, of Milwaukee, and TVSdesign, of Atlanta, to design the next version of the convention center. The district board also had previously hired CAA/ICON as a consultant on the project.

After putting out a call for construction managers in late November, the center district board vetted applications based on a firm’s prior experience, project fees and other factors. Officials held interviews with construction teams last week Monday and Tuesday.

The center district board is expected to vote on a financing package for the project at a meeting in April. Preconstruction work is expected to begin after the board approves a financing package and run through February 2021. Construction could eventually wrap up in the second quarter of 2023.

“It is a great honor to be part of this world-class team and continue Gilbane Smith’s longstanding commitment to Milwaukee and southeast Wisconsin,” said Adam Jelen, senior vice president and principal in charge of the project, in a statement.

About Nate Beck, [email protected]

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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