Planning for What’s Next at Caterpillar

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We are being more proactive than ever when it comes shaping the future of South Milwaukee, especially our downtown. We have to be.

From our comprehensive and downtown planning efforts completed last spring to our new downtown grant program to our work on designing streetscaping upgrades to our ongoing study of downtown management/ownership structures, we are taking real action to control our own destiny in the heart of our city.

One more example of this: Work we’re contemplating around planning for the redevelopment of the evolving Caterpillar campus, which the company has said will shrink to become primarily a manufacturing facility in coming years.

We’re just getting started on this important effort, and a proposal from Graef Consulting to potentially develop design guidelines and a site master plan for the handful of properties coming available was first discussed at our Plan Commission meeting on Monday night. I expect we’ll see a more detailed plan for potential action in early 2017.

The Business Journal and Biz Times published stories about this work today.

As the Business Journal story noted …

Caterpillar leases the campus buildings south of Rawson Avenue from real estate investor One Liberty Partners Inc., of Great Neck, N.Y. An 86,391-square-foot warehouse on 10th Avenue is on the market for lease, or possible sale, to new occupants, said Pat Hake, Colliers International/Wisconsin associate broker who is marketing the warehouse building with Steve Sewart of Colliers.

In Colliers’ marketing materials, it also says four more buildings, with a combined 429,110 square feet of office and warehouse space, could become available to new tenants in 2017 or 2018. Those include the sprawling Machine Shop building and the corporate office building at the south end of the campus near Milwaukee Avenue.

In other words, even with a significant manufacturing presence remaining in town (the good news in this scenario), much of the Cat campus south of Rawson Avenue is coming available for reuse in the next two years. While I wish things were different — I’d much rather have Cat bursting at the seams, with employment levels similar to those at the heights of mining booms — this is an opportunity for us. We need to take it, and to play a role in shaping the future of that property.

We need a holistic perspective on what we want on the bulk of the site — and, just as importantly, what we don’t want. At the same time,  we need flexibility; we can’t overplan. We will make sure to strike that balance in whatever plan we embark on.

And we will avoid the alternative: sitting by and simply waiting for something to happen with perhaps our city’s most important parcel of land, just hoping for the best.

Much more to come.

17 Comments

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17 responses to “Planning for What’s Next at Caterpillar

  1. Bryce Ruddock

    Well lets just hope that One Liberty Partners continues to pay the taxes on the site once it goes vacant and that Caterpillar does the same once it vacates the Engineering and office sites. That’s a whole lot of non productive real estate for citizens to have to support. Any possible companies in the queue willing to set up shop? And the loss of the rest of the jobs, excluding of course the manufacturing support positions for the north of Rawson Ave buildings. How is the city going to be able to assist in helping the newly unemployed as Caterpillar retracts/ withdraws operations from town? Will the company pick up some of these costs?

  2. Bryce Ruddock

    Obviously the city needs to be looking for possible tenants for these buildings that can utilize the features existing for heavy manufacturing. Perhaps and its just an idea that a light rail manufacturer such as what Talgo is could be appropriate for the site given its proximity to rail lines and the metro corridor from Chicago to Green Bay, from Milwaukee to the Twin Cities. That or something similar. The big question is how can South Milwaukee be a big contributor to Wisconsin’s economic future once we are not home to a anchor company such as Caterpillar/BE etc.? How can our city become a manufacturing center for the future while at the same time utilize existing capital infrastructure? Just a few thoughts regarding possibilities.

  3. SM Guy

    Whatever happened to John Deere? I thought I heard that they wanted take over part the property and turned down?

  4. Don

    It seems that in this blog about Caterpillar the mayor ignored that the left wing Democrats are succeeding in their plan of, as Hillary said, “Putting coal miners out of work and coal related companies out of business”. Seems the plan is working. Why is the mayor complaining or acting like he’s concerned?!?!?! He’s getting what he wants. He should be jumping for joy shouldn’t he? He’s not seeing that he’s reaping what he sows, believes in and votes for? Odd isn’t it? He should be very pleased that the Democrats’ plan is working. Why is it that the elephant in the room is so often ignored?

    • I’m disappointed — offended, too — you would think I’d be cheering the loss of hundreds of jobs and buildings going vacant in my community. I am certain mining industry struggles go well beyond state and national politics. They are global. We are just feeling the repercussions.

    • Rick

      The new upcoming Administration has indicated that they are not going ban the use of coal for power plants which would have closed the mines in PA. Thank God there will be common sense coming in January.

    • Betsy

      Perhaps the other elephant in the room, the one wearing the inhaler, mask and breathing apparatus, suggests a balanced approach to this difficult and worldwide issue.

  5. Frank Gratke

    I believe, used industrial space is going to be hard to get occupied. I belief the City of South Milwaukee should start thinking of working on a regional basses. Forming a planning district with the cities of Cudahy and St Francis would allow the development of the skills needed to be done thru all three cities. The combination of three land locked cities would combine their efforts and political voice for county, state, and federal resources. Currently all three cities share a health inspector name Marty. I would place a name on this district as the Lake Heights Planning District. The statement “We are just feeling the repercussions.” needs to be follow thru on. I believe forming the Lake Heights Planning District is a good start, simply by naming Marty’s employer. The name South Shore has been used but at times, has Bay View and Oak Creek added or subtracted in its many uses.

  6. Jeff W

    Eric,

    How about working on getting 794 extended south, it takes too long to go n-s near the lake? This would help to make the site more marketable, Slow two lane Hwy 32 isn’t going to cut it. Communities to the south have the same issue.

    • Indeed, I support the extension, and Supervisor Jursik and previous city leaders worked with regional planners to get this on the list of future projects. But there it sits. And given the significant issues, political and otherwise, in transportation funding facing the state now — delaying even major freeway projects because of lack of funding, and little desire to seek new funding — I have serious doubts this project will go anywhere for maybe decades. It’s a worthy project. I will certainly fight the fight when I think it has a chance; I don’t see that chance anytime soon. I wish things were different. Note: We are working with Oak Creek to explore widening Pennsylvania/Nicholson, south of Rawson. I will fight for the that project, hopefully with work beginning in the next couple of years.

      • Thanks for the quick reply, Eric. I live in Racine and work in S Milw. Racine has the same access issues as South Milwaukee, but even worse. The state can come up with the $200m to take 794 down to Ryan, if not both cities will continue to have high unemployment.

        As you know, Pennsylvania dead ends at Oakwood Rd, expanding it would not help much. Expanding high volume Hwy 32 to four lanes south would be a much better improvement.

  7. Jon Ellis

    Erik, What are your plans for widening Nicholson ? Would it go wider from Rawson to Drexel ? Or further south of Drexel ? Thanks .

  8. Jon Ellis

    Ok thanks for replying ! If it goes south of Drexel I will most likely sell my house if anyone would buy it knowing that a highway is coming in front of it.

  9. Jeff Warg

    Erik-Wouldn’t that road be difficult to expand just south of Rawson with houses in the way, then the issue of Eminent Domain would come into play?

    • Difficult, yes. I’m not sure what role property acquisition has to play here, yet. That is probably a better question for Oak Creek, as I believe any properties impacted by a widening would be on the east side of the street. But it’s early; more study is needed around options.

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