Gary Grunau, president of a development company in Milwaukee, gave an informative and colorful presentation of the changing nature of Milwaukee over the past decades, and how this change has impacted where and how he develops. He highlighted many demographic changes and investments that have led to a “Milwaukee Renaissance” – a renewed interest and excitement for living, working, and playing downtown.
Gary illustrated these changes by walking us through one of his recent development projects - Schlitz Park. After taking us through a brief history of Milwaukee’s industrial past in the 1970s, Gary pointed out that many of these former tanneries and breweries have prime locations downtown on the riverfront (because of their industrial need for water.) Because of this, many of these former industrial properties have great opportunities for transformation into 21st century uses. Schlitz Park has been reborn as a 42-acre corporate campus with amenities catered towards the city-lifestyle. Bike infrastructure, food trucks, fitness centers, campus-wide wifi, green spaces, electric vehicle charging stations, and a host of other 21st century amenities have been designed to attract the next generation of city employers. The campus has been wildly successful, and has attracted many new companies to the city.
Important takeaways from this lecture include the impact of demographics on city development, the potential for redevelopment that vacant industrial campuses hold, and design and construction challenges that come from renovating old industrial sites. The presentation included information about the number of jobs and amount of tax base that this redevelopment produced, on-site and in nearby areas.