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Milwaukee calls for developers for ‘transit-oriented opportunities’ on Wisconsin Avenue

By: Ethan Duran//May 31, 2023//

Milwaukee calls for developers for ‘transit-oriented opportunities’ on Wisconsin Avenue

By: Ethan Duran//May 31, 2023//

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Milwaukee made a request for proposals for developers to build on a parcel of land between North Fifth Street and West Vel R. Phillips Avenue south of Wisconsin Avenue. The parcel is currently occupied by a surface parking lot, and the city said this would be a “transit-oriented opportunity” as a new bus rapid transit line and streetcar line are slated to make stops there. (Rendering courtesy City of Milwaukee)

The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee on Wednesday sent out new requests for proposals (RFP) for a 55,626-square-foot parcel with some extra bones for developers to bite in downtown Milwaukee.

City officials called the parcel, a parking lot south of Wisconsin Avenue between North Fifth Street and North Vel R. Phillips in the Westown neighborhood, “one of the most unique transit-oriented development opportunities in the Midwest.”

The lot shares the neighborhood with the expanding Wisconsin Center, soon to be renamed the Baird Center, a Hilton Hotel, a future Kohl’s department store and the Fiserv headquarters, city officials said. Nearby are the Deer District and Fiserv Forum, the Marquette University campus and the ongoing Milwaukee Tool headquarters project.

“This high-visibility, high-traffic site is situated directly across the street from the Baird Center, Wisconsin’s largest convention center currently undergoing a major expansion that opens in 2024. The parcel is also across the street from the Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel, Fiserv Inc.’s future global headquarters, and a future Kohl’s department store location. The site is nearby several catalytic locations, including Fiserv Forum and the Deer District, Milwaukee Tool’s new downtown office location, Marquette University’s campus, and more,” according to city officials.

The proposed 30,000-square-foot Vel R. Phillips Plaza is directly north of the site and is slated to open in 2024 with 2,900 square feet set aside for food and beverage service, city officials noted.

The site is also located on the East-West Bus Rapid Transit line, which stretches from the lakefront in Milwaukee to Wauwatosa. Milwaukee County Transit System officials said the new bus route will start on June 4. The proposed plaza will include a future stop for Milwaukee’s streetcar system The Hop, according to the city website. The plaza is expected to open in 2024.

Recent investment around the site made it “one of the most attractive development opportunities” in the region, Matt Dorner, economic development director for Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District #21 (BID #21) told The Daily Reporter.

“The recent investment surrounding the site makes it one of the most attractive development opportunities in the entire region. Thousands of new employees, housing units, new retailers, the Baird Center expansion, and adjacency to the future Vel R. Philips Plaza and multiple transit options, make this the perfect time for City of Milwaukee to seek a partner that understands this unique opportunity to transform this key site into something special that complements and adds to the vibrancy of the area and downtown as a whole,” Dorner added.

City officials said this is a rolling RFP and is designed to seek redevelopment proposals for the parcel on a continuous basis. The city will evaluate proposals until a suitable one is chosen, and the selected proposal will be presented to RACM and the Milwaukee Common Council for official acceptance, officials added.

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