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AECOM moving 90 jobs to Schlitz Park in Milwaukee

Date: Monday, January 16, 2012, 6:00am CST - Last Modified: Monday, January 16, 2012, 6:00am CST
Schlitz Park, located across the Milwaukee River from the Park East Corridor, is under renovation.
Sean Ryan

Schlitz Park, located across the Milwaukee River from the Park East Corridor, is under renovation.

Sean Ryan
Reporter - The Business Journal
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AECOM Technology Corp. in July will move 90 workers to Schlitz Park from two other Milwaukee locations after leasing 21,000 square feet in the downtown office complex.

Schlitz Park, located across the Milwaukee River from the Park East Corridor, is under renovation. There’s also signs of life in the Park East, where the Milwaukee School of Engineering and BMO Harris Bank struck a deal to develop a new parking structure and soccer stadium after more than a year of negotiations. Three blocks north of the corridor, the Milwaukee Housing Authority is planning to renovate and update the nine-story Hillside Terrace apartment highrise.

AECOM’s lease signing last week concludes a roughly year-long search for a new office, said Paul Tarvin, AECOM vice president. The company also considered space in The Brewery near the Park East, The Tannery office complex in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood and the Milwaukee County Research Park in Wauwatosa, Tarvin said.

“The management team had a desire to be located in the downtown area,” Tarvin said. “A number of our major clients are located downtown, including the city.”

AECOM is an international company that provides engineering and other consulting services.

AECOM will move workers to Schlitz Park from two offices it leases at 1020 N. Broadway and 11425 W. Lake Park Drive. They are the former locations of Earth Tech and STS Consultants Ltd., two companies AECOM acquired in the past five years.

The AECOM lease brings Schlitz Park’s RiverCenter building to 90 percent occupancy, said Gary Grunau, one of the property’s owners. Schlitz Park’s owners in June announced renovation plans for 350,000 square feet of office space. More than $45 million in private financing for the project closed in the past several weeks, Grunau said, and work is under way on several buildings. The RiverCenter is being renovated for AECOM’s new office.

“We’ve seen tremendous interest in the market with companies looking at space,” Grunau said. “Predominantly the companies we’re looking at right now are from outside of the downtown area. That’s the market we were going to go after.”

Shifting from park to drive

The roughly $28 million plan for a Milwaukee School of Engineering parking structure and soccer complex in the Park East is finally moving forward after the college, BMO Harris, the city and Milwaukee County have worked out a land-swap agreement.

The project, first announced in November 2010, includes a 780-stall parking structure that will have a soccer stadium on its top floor. There also will be a public park at the north end of the site served by a restaurant or coffee shop.

Questions regarding the cost of cleaning contaminated soil from the project site and of meeting first M&I’s, and then BMO Harris’ parking needs led to extended negotiations. The three have agreed to a deal, and have sent it to city and county elected officials for consideration over the next two months.

County Executive Chris Abele, who last year pledged to collaborate with city development officials, said the MSOE deal is the first “tangible, substantive” example of the two governments working together in the Park East.

“We feel pretty good about the way it worked,” Abele said. “Here’s our sort of test case. We get this. We work well together.”

It was a complicated deal because of a strange wave-shaped property line that cuts through the block, which is bordered by North Water Street, East Knapp Street and North Broadway. The county owns the northern part of the block, and BMO Harris owns a parking lot on the south end. The county will sell its land in the block for $3.8 million.

The city plans to extend Market Street north through the block, cutting it in half. The college will build its parking structure on the east half of the block, and BMO Harris will take the west half.

“While we don’t have any specific long-term plans identified at this time for the land we plan to acquire, this is a great example of a strategic public/private partnership that creates numerous benefits,” Jim Kappel, vice president and head of media relations for BMO Harris, wrote in an email to The Business Journal.

To overcome the cost of removing contaminated soil from the site, the parties agreed to reserve $1.14 million of the land sale proceeds for environmental cleanup. Of the remaining sale money, Milwaukee County will receive $1.54 million, the state will get $95,789 and the federal government will get $1 million. The state and federal governments get a cut because the land formerly was the Park East freeway spur.

The college agreed to let BMO Harris employees lease up to 220 parking stalls in the structure for up to 10 years.

Jeff Fleming, Milwaukee Department of City Development spokesman, said the MSOE project should make surrounding Park East sites more desirable to developers. As for BMO Harris’ property, he said “I’m confident the bank will see that property as a valuable development site.”

Higher highrise standard

The Milwaukee Housing Authority, already with 250 units under development at Westlawn, will apply for state tax credits to renovate the 49-unit Hillside Terrace highrise a few blocks north of the Park East.

The highrise was built in 1956 and needs to be modernized, said Paul Williams, housing authority communications coordinator. The planned renovation project will upgrade the affordable apartments but also improve the accessibility of common areas and the laundry room, he said.

“The structure itself is sound,” he said. “We would just like to bring it up to par with modern design and energy efficiency standards.”

The authority will compete for the 2012 round of affordable housing tax credits that are allocated by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. The Milwaukee Housing Authority set a state record when it received the largest tax credit award ever for the redevelopment of the Westlawn housing project, which is under way.

Sean Ryan reports on real estate, construction and public transit in southeast Wisconsin

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