Milwaukee’s southern suburbs are seeing a turnover for redevelopment after some large businesses left. Communities like Cudahy and South Milwaukee are looking to redevelop former factories and big box stores into offices and apartments. Meanwhile, communities like West Allis exercise their transformative strength with small businesses.
West Allis, a city of more than 60,000 on Milwaukee’s western border, recently completed projects like The West Living and the SoNa Lofts apartment complexes. Ope! Brewing Company was built out of a former machine shop and recently a firm owned by a Milwaukee Bucks basketball player made a purchase moving plans forward for a 247-unit apartment complex over old office buildings.
However, some cities are still waiting for their turn to transform old factories that their communities were built around for new uses.
South Milwaukee, a city of 20,000 people, was built around the former Bucyrus-Erie steam shovel company which moved into the area in 1891 and was bought by Caterpillar in 2011.
The city was also in talks with a developer to build nearly 600 units in the former Everbrite manufacturer site, but in November those plans fell through, South Milwaukee City Administrator Patrick Brever told The Daily Reporter. City officials are looking to fill the gap left by the two manufacturing sites.
Cudahy is also looking to redevelop strip mall space from the ’60s and ’70s along South Packard Avenue and parts of the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor, Cudahy City Administrator Casey Griffiths said.
The city is also landlocked, which requires infill development, Griffiths added. Infill development, where developers build over vacant and unused parcels, is occurring in other landlocked communities like Franklin and West Allis.
West Allis Mayor Dan Devine credited his city’s redevelopment success to a snowball effect drawing in small businesses. The community is also landlocked and relied on messaging to bring in specialty restaurants and upscale apartments.
“Overall, we’ve got a lot of interest that wasn’t there 10 years ago and a lot of potential investment going forward,” Devine told The Daily Reporter.
“The initial challenge for us as a community was to message out that not only are we making every effort to be business friendly as possible, but also the image of the ‘old West Allis,’ people don’t visualize a community that would support craft breweries, local delis and upscale apartments. These are the neat, placemaking small businesses that enhance neighborhoods,” Devine added.
Redevelopment in the area came in the form of small entrepreneurs and manufacturing, Devine said. For example, the West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shoppe, where the owner Mark Lutz bought and rehabilitated a diner into the Wild Roots restaurant.
“Once a few places showed promise and success, then word got out West Allis has a great location,” Devine said.
Another entity that helps catalyze redevelopment in Milwaukee’s outer communities are private and public partnerships, Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke. Greenfield, home to nearly 38,000, is looking to finish redevelopment at the 84 South shopping mall and areas around Southridge Mall bordering with adjacent Greendale, he added.
“Greenfield has a commitment to get involved and make the processes seamless and expedient as possible, and prudent of course. It takes a lot of public-private partnerships. Cities and villages can’t do it by themselves. They need to understand time and investment is money,” Neitzke said.
Corroborating Devine’s statement, Neitzke said enhancing business areas drew people in to move in nearby and flip properties that were otherwise tired.
“What you find is when you do something like 84 South and you enhance the commercial district, what ends up happening is the stuff that is a little bit tired near it becomes something that people look at to redevelop,” Neitzke said.
In South Milwaukee, the city’s challenges were looking for a catalyst for development since Bucyrus-Erie left, Brever said. The city is in talks with J. Jeffers & Co. and Scott Crawford Inc. to build 92 apartments in the company’s former offices.
The Bucyrus Foundation gave the city $8 million to create grant programs, Brever added. The city is committed to using the money to help start new businesses, improve storefront facades and address community needs.
In Cudahy, city officials are using tax increment financing (TIF) to spur rejuvenation around Layton and Pennsylvania Avenues, Griffiths said.
Further west of Milwaukee, Brookfield officials were in talks to decide whether to allow for a tax increment district (TID) to help a developer pay for soil remediation. As previously reported, developer Heimat Group wants to clean up a brownfield and build multi-family housing and retail space near Capitol Avenue and Lilly Road.
As previously reported by The Daily Reporter, Fox Point and Glendale are no stranger to redevelopment.
The Mandel Group redeveloped the former site of what once was Dunwood School in Fox Point. The site had been turned into a YMCA center before Mandel Group’s redevelopment of the land into a luxury apartment complex, The Chiswick. As previously reported, Chiswick Land LLC paid $2.7 million to develop the site after Fox Point officials rezoned the property.
In Glendale, the Wisconsin Athletic Club moved into what was once a Sentry Foods grocery store back in 2016. Wheel and Sprocket moved into what was once a Kohl’s grocery store in Fox Point.
The Daily Reporter’s Steve Schuster also contributed to this report.