WI: Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley Development Leads to Transportation Needs

More construction crews soon could descend on Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley Industrial Center, a once-dilapidated landscape that has undergone a decade-long revival.

Now, city officials are turning their attention toward new modes of transportation for the valley's 1,000-plus employees.

The Menomonee Valley Industrial Center isn't 100 percent occupied, but the city is closing in on that milestone, said Rocky Marcoux, commissioner of the Department of City Development.

"We're not at liberty to discuss who that company is," he said, "but we've given them an exclusive right to negotiate. So, we're hopeful we'll be back before the (Common Council) before the end of this year with a land sale. "

Paragon Development Systems Inc., Oconomowoc, will build a 50,000-square-foot data center in the valley, Tom Mount, Paragon's chief financial officer, told The Daily Reporter earlier this month.

The parcel the city is negotiating to sell borders Bud Selig Drive and West Wheelhouse Road and is adjacent to land on which Suzy's Cream Cheesecakes Inc. is constructing a 50,000-square-foot building for production and office space. That building, which Brookfield-based Briohn Building Corp. is designing and constructing, is expected to be completed in 2012.

J.F. Ahern Co. also recently announced plans to build a 67,000-square-foot headquarters in the business park.

If the city closes the deal on its current negotiations, Marcoux said, the valley only would have 5.6 acres left for sale.

"It truly has become one of the signatures here in Milwaukee," said Alderman Joe Davis Sr., chairman of the city's Community and Economic Development Committee. "We've got a lot to be proud of. "

But, Davis added, the success of the business park means a need for greater transportation options for workers commuting to Milwaukee's west side.

"What I don't want to do is create development where we rely once again on antiquated systems instead of looking ahead," Davis said.

The city, he said, should pursue rail transportation that would pass through the Menomonee Valley, whether that means eventual extension of the planned $64.6 million streetcar project or a new light rail system. The federal government, he added, could be willing to pay for such a project depending on how the political winds blow.

"I do believe (President Barack Obama) will be re-elected," Davis said, "and that's important because of the relationship we have with the secretary of transportation (Ray LaHood).

"We need to find out exactly what our plan is in order for us to ask for funding because the president has hinted he is very supportive of transportation infrastructure. "

Rail service eventually could take workers to the planned 30th Street Industrial Corridor, or the former Century City, Marcoux said. Light rail or an expanded streetcar route, Marcoux said, could open possibilities not only for a transit option, but also for a new transit center similar to the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

The vision for a west-side transit center, though, has a long way to go, Marcoux acknowledged.

"The only definition is it's a transit stop so it could be any number of things, but it's very close to the tracks," he said. "It certainly could prove to be a very, very good spot at a future date to have an intermodal-type facility there. "

Milwaukee, Marcoux said, could take advantage of long-defunct interurban rail path that still runs through the Menomonee Valley.

"A lot of that right-of-way remains intact and could be a potential streetcar route or a potential type of other transportation route," Marcoux said. "So, I think the opportunities are there. I think we have to look with an eye toward how we can maximize those, particularly the rights-of-way that already exist. "

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