RFP for Unprecedented Transit-Oriented Development Opportunity in Downtown Milwaukee
The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee has Published a RFP for a True Transit-Oriented Development
A RFP for a 2-acre parcel in the heart of downtown is the first of its kind in Milwaukee and one of the most unique transit-oriented development opportunities now available in the Midwest. This high visibility and high traffic site is located on Milwaukee’s main thoroughfare—Wisconsin Avenue—directly across the street from Wisconsin’s main convention center and only blocks from the Marquette University campus.
The site is centrally-located among significant redevelopment efforts nearby and will be directly impacted by significant planned transit improvements—including Milwaukee's new modern streetcar system: the Milwaukee Streetcar.
The 4th Street extension of the new streetcar system will physically traverse the site; serving as the key point where the line merges from northbound on North 5th Street and southbound on North 4th Street to north and southbound on North 4th Street. This extension will directly connect the site with the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, the new NBA arena, the Third Ward warehouse district, the central business district, the Milwaukee River and riverwalk, the Lake Michigan lakefront, the densest concentration of residential and office development in the State of Wisconsin and numerous other downtown Milwaukee attractions.
In addition to seven local bus routes directly serving the site, Milwaukee County’s proposed 7-mile East-West Bus Rapid Transit line (“BRT”)—connecting the region's top employment centers, including the regional medical complex/research park and downtown Milwaukee—will stop at the site’s doorstep and will be one of only 2 or 3 stops in all of downtown Milwaukee. Two and a half blocks south of the site is the Milwaukee Intermodal Station with 7 daily Amtrak trips to Chicago and intercity bus service with over 8 daily trips to Madison and many other regional destinations.
Present site zoning is for major retail, which allows for a variety of commercial uses including office, retail, restaurant and hotel, as well as multi-family residential uses. The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM) will work with the developer to make zoning changes, if necessary, to allow for the selected development proposal. The applicable chapter of the zoning code is available here (pdf).
The site also has access to all public utilities, including a low-pressure steam pipe runs under the vacated north-south alley to easily connect to lower cost steam service from WE Energies.
The City updated its Downtown Area Plan in 2010, which listed projects in a Wisconsin Avenue Strategy with the goal of revitalizing Wisconsin Avenue east and west of the Milwaukee River—including the site offered in this newly published RFP.
As a result, RACM now seeks development proposals that will develop transit-oriented mixed-use building(s) offering street level restaurant and retail uses with residential, hotel and/or office uses on upper levels. Proposals should also maximize pedestrian activity, contributing to downtown’s vitality and creating a landmark building and public plaza that integrate the Milwaukee Streetcar. This focal point development must also respond to site context and existing neighboring buildings.
The site separates into three parts, with specific goals identified for each area:
- Main Development Site: preferred uses include dense multi-family residential, hotel, office, restaurant and retail uses.
- Pavilion Site: preferred uses include public uses such as restaurant, bar, beer garden, retail, visitor’s center or market. The building should be transparent and compatible with the plaza area, with accommodations such as publicly-available restrooms, storage and utilities—and should engage the street/sidewalk, as well as the streetcar route.
- Plaza: design of the plaza should be largely hardscape with appropriate landscaping and public art and must include seating for the general public as well as for customers of businesses next to the plaza.
Plaza and Streetcar Easement
The entire site will be conveyed to the developer with a permanent easement to the City for the plaza area— similar to those used for Milwaukee’s Riverwalk system—to ensure public access and a permanent easement to the City to allow for the streetcar to traverse the site. Both easements must be provided to the City at no cost. All maintenance of the plaza area will be the responsibility of the developer/purchaser, however the City will be responsible for construction and maintenance of streetcar track and related improvements in the streetcar easement area.
The site received Case Closure from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) in 2014. The site has residual soil and groundwater contamination and the buyer will be required to comply with WDNR’s Closure Conditions. The property is listed on the WDNR’s GIS registry for soil and groundwater impacts. The property will be sold in its “as is, where is” condition. The buyer will be required to comply with WDNR case closure requirements including continuing obligations.
Proposals are being requested at this time that, at a minimum, include:
- RACM Project Summary and Public Disclosure Statement
- Identify the team, estimated preliminary costs and outline your financing strategy and schedule
- Conceptual architectural plans – preliminary, but scaled site plan, conceptual elevations that identify building materials and color renderings. Floor plans are desirable, but not required.
This is a rolling RFP, designed to seek proposals for the redevelopment of the site on a continuous basis until the site is under a development agreement between RACM and the developer. Every last Friday of the month at 2:00 p.m., beginning September 30, 2016, will be the deadline for consideration in that RFP review period.
Why is Downtown Milwaukee is Booming?
Downtown Milwaukee is undergoing an extraordinary renaissance with nearly $3 billion in projects completed since 2005, $1 billion under construction and another $1.3 billion in advanced planning stages. In the greater downtown area, over 9,500 housing units have been added since 2004 and over 1,300 hotel rooms have been added since 2008. As a result of this extraordinary investment and substantial growth, downtown Milwaukee now has 26,000 residents, 83,000 daily workers and over 6 million annual visitors.
Projects currently under construction in downtown Milwaukee include:
- $450m, 32-story, 1.1m SF new headquarters for Northwestern Mutual, opening in 2017.
- $524m new downtown arena, opening in 2018 that will be home to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and the Marquette University Golden Eagles men’s basketball team, as well as the anchor for a 25-acre redevelopment area that is expected to bring an additional $500 million in private investment over the next 20 years.
- 2.1-mile modern streetcar system, the Milwaukee Streetcar, connecting the lower east side, central business district, Third Ward and Milwaukee Intermodal Station, opening in 2018.
- 2,000 new housing units.
- 314 new hotel rooms (in addition to 308 new hotel rooms opening in 2016).
Planned projects in downtown Milwaukee include:
- Marquette University’s $120m, 250,000 SF, Athletic Performance Research Center, in partnership with Aurora Health Care, south of the site. See rendering below - top left.
- Complete redevelopment of the former Shops of Grand Avenue, the iconic downtown Milwaukee mall, into a mix of office, retail and food/beverage uses, directly east of the site. See rendering below - top right.
- 0.4-mile extension of the Milwaukee Streetcar to the offices, parks and attractions along Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan lakefront.