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.
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.