Drawing From Menomonee Valley, Milwaukee's Century City Could Find A Path To Revitalization

Dec 5, 2019

Now that Strauss Brands has dropped its plan to build a slaughterhouse, some Milwaukeeans are wondering what's next for Century City. That's the former Tower Automotive property on Milwaukee's north side that the city has been redeveloping.

At a luncheon held by the Wisconsin Policy Forum on Wednesday at the Potawatomi Casino and Hotel in Menomonee Valley, Mayor Tom Barrett said that Strauss isn't entirely out of the question.

READ: Unpacking The Controversy Of Strauss Brands In Century City

Hosts of the luncheon said that the Menomonee Valley could serve as an example of how to get businesses to build offices and headquarters in Century City. The Menomonee Valley once too was full of vacant lots.

Joe Peterangelo is with the Wisconsin Policy Forum. He says that getting Menomonee Valley up and going took strong leadership, funding and creativity to play into the strengths of the area — like location or potential business developments surrounding the valley, which is something that’s harder for Century City to do. 

Surrounding the Potawatomi Hotel, factories have moved in.
Credit Olivia Richardson

"In the valley, when you look back in the '90s, a lot of people didn't see it as having that much promise. It was very blighted. A lot of people saw it as an eye-sore," Peterangelo recalls.

Century City isn’t completely without its merit, he says. It’s been cleaned and prepared for development. In addition, Century City is the largest industrial site available for development in Milwaukee. And, according to Peterangelo, the businesses moving to the area have access to an available labor market as people in the neighborhood need jobs. Barrett says the city has a role to play too.

"We want to work with you to put family-supporting jobs in this neighborhood. The fact that we put $40 million into this site is a demonstration of how committed the city is to moving forward," Barrett says.

The challenge, according to Barrett, is getting businesses to Century City or making sure business bids are kept.

The Potawatomi Casino
Credit Olivia Richardson

Century City is classified as an opportunity zone, which gives businesses incentives like tax deferrals to move in or relocate. Rebecca Mitich is with Husch Blackwell. She says that according to a presentation by Develop Advisors, an advisory firm for Opportunity Zone Funds, Century City is considered one of the poorest investments when considering median income and unemployment compared to other opportunity zones around the United States.

"The ultimate incentive of this is appreciation at the end of 10 years. However, if you are an operating company and you want to buy and then operate your company in an opportunity zone, then your investors in your operation will at the end of 10 years, if your company grows, then that appreciation is tax-free,"  Mitich explains.

Some experts say that part of getting businesses to look at Century City is knowing that there are educated, engaged families in the neighborhood.