By Steve Schuster and Ethan Duran
Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) unveiled plans Friday to redevelop a current Homeland Security building located in Milwaukee.
The Kendall Breunig Center for the Built Environment will open at 310 E. Knapp St. once renovations are complete, according to a written statement from MSOE.
The three-story 58,429 square foot building will be home to MSOE’s Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management (CAECM) Department.
Renovation costs are a total of $14 million and the college will seek private support to fund construction, MSOE officials said.
As previously reported by The Daily Reporter, back in March Feds told The Daily Reporter that their decision to relocate from Knapp Street was mission driven, having nothing to do with the Milwaukee School of Engineering acquisition.
“ICE began planning to relocate local field personnel from the current leased space in 2017 due to overarching mission requirements. This relocation was contemplated well before, and independent of, the current building owner’s decision to sell the facility,” said Erin Bultje, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Chicago Field office.
Like other federal agencies, ICE relies on the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to obtain leased space to support operations, Bultje noted.
“GSA awarded a new lease on ICE’s behalf in early 2022 at another location in Milwaukee (where) teams continue to design and construct that new space. ICE plans to relocate the local team into the new facility before the current lease expires in 2025,” Bultje added.
GSA officials said that they start working on the leases far in advance so that the buildings can be properly prepared as far as security, furniture, IT infrastructure, etc.
Also as previously reported by The Daily Reporter, MSOE purchased a building leased by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the north end of campus, according to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
Although the school paid $1.09 million for the three-story building at 310 E. Knapp St. on March 1, it was actually valued at nearly 10 times that amount.
The property was recently assessed at nearly $10 million and just two years ago was valued at around $13 million, according to Kendall Breunig, owner of Sunset Investors Knapp LLC, who sold the property to MSOE.
Well, not quite $10 million.
“The property had an assessed value of $9,275,400 in 2022,” said Camille McBee with the Milwaukee County Assessor’s Office during an interview with The Daily Reporter on Thursday.
Breunig previously told The Daily Reporter that he sold the property to MSOE for four times less than what he paid for it about two years ago.
“I paid $4.75 million for the property in 2021,” Breunig said during an interview Wednesday, noting that the significantly reduced sale price is a donation to his alma mater.
When MSOE officials were asked about the donation, they declined to comment and said “we are going to stick to our original statement, we have nothing further to add,” a spokeswoman told The Daily Reporter back in March.
Chicago-native turned Milwaukee attorney and now Alderman Robert Bauman told The Daily Reporter that MSOE is a valuable asset to Milwaukee and he fully supports the transaction.
Although the 58,000-square-foot building was custom made for Homeland Security in 2001, it will be converted into useable academic space for MSOE, according to Breunig.
MSOE will continue to be the landlord for Homeland Security until it decides to vacate, Breunig added.
Breunig first acquired the building in 2021 and said he was the third owner. Homeland Security had been leasing the property from multiple owners, he added.
Homeland Security officials tell The Daily Reporter that they have found a new home with a to-be-determined move in date.
“The USCIS Milwaukee field office and its co-located Application Support Center will be relocating to 310 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This is the only USCIS office in Wisconsin,” USCIC officials said during an interview with The Daily Reporter back in March.
Although USCIS officials said they do not have an anticipated move date at this time, they directed additional lease related questions to the General Services Administration (GSA).
The Department of Homeland Security lease at 310 E. Knapp St., Milwaukee, will expire on April 19, 2025, a GSA spokesperson said.
GSA officials also noted that DHS’ U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement will be relocating to Park Place VII at 11925 W. Lake Park Drive in Milwaukee. However, “the new lease for DHS’ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will be located at 310 W. Wisconsin Ave. in Milwaukee,” officials said.
Although MSOE hasn’t finalized plans for its use, the facility will support academics, a university spokesperson said.
“This strategic acquisition will support our academic mission, further strengthening our ability to deliver a top-tier education and the development of the MSOE mindset in our graduates. As demand for our graduates grows, so too should our curricular and co-curricular offerings and campus infrastructure to meet their needs,” MSOE president Dr. John Walz said.
Breunig is also a member of the MSOE Board of Regents and graduated from MSOE with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Science in Architectural and Building Construction Engineering Technology in 1979, a university spokesperson said. He received a master’s degree in civil engineering from Marquette University in 1978 and received an Honorary Doctor of Engineering from MSOE in 2017. He served in the MSOE Corp. before joining the Board of Regents in 2016 and was inducted to MSOE’s Alumni Wall of Distinction in 2021, the spokesperson added.
The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM) will offer a tax-exempt land use resolution to MSOE for future “college” use, according to documents obtained by The Daily Reporter. RACM will meet next March 16.
MSOE will rezone the building for “college use,” consistent with nearby campus buildings, and convert it to support academics, a university spokesperson said. Walz and university leadership will consider the options in consultation with MSOE’s Board of Regents, the spokesperson added.
The building sits in the northeast quadrant of campus near North Broadway and East Knapp Street. Neighboring buildings include Viets Field, the Kern Center and a university parking lot.