Milwaukee’s Global Water Center is nearly full, less than two years after opening, so center officials are now planning a possible second water center building in the Walker’s Point area.
The Water Council, working with development firm HKS Holdings LLC, has a five-story building and a connected two-story building at 326-332 W. Florida St. under contract, said Dean Amhaus, council president and chief executive officer.
If the project proceeds, the property, which is now used for storage, would be converted into a 45,000-square-foot office building.
“It’s become just critical for the growth we’re seeing,” Amhaus said Wednesday.
Amhaus said the space would be targeted to smaller water tech firms seeking rents that are less expensive than those at the Global Water Center, 247 W. Freshwater Way — formerly 223 W. Pittsburgh Ave.
The Florida St. building wouldn’t have the auditorium, shared water flow lab and other amenities found at the 98,000-square-foot Global Water Center, Amhaus said. But its tenants would have access to those facilities at the center, which is just a few blocks away.
The Florida St. building also could offer space on very short terms, such as one to three months, for businesses that need offices while doing projects with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences, he said. The school is among the water center’s main tenants.
The project’s financing would include state and federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits, Amhaus said. Those credits were among the mix of public and private funds used to develop the $ 22 million Global Water Center.
HKS is exploring other options to fund the project, but doesn’t yet have the financing packaging completed, said Joe Klein, an HKS partner.
The council and HKS are performing their due diligence on the Florida St. property, Amhaus said. He hopes that project can begin this summer, with the new offices open by summer 2016.
The second building is planned because the water center has leased out 99% of its space, Amhaus said, with more businesses seeking offices.
“We’re probably going to have to start a waiting list,” he said.
The water center opened in a renovated seven-story warehouse in September 2013, and has over 40 tenants. They include the research operations of Badger Meter Inc. and A.O. Smith Corp., and Rexnord Corp.’s executive offices.
The water center has leased out its space at a much faster pace than expected, Amhaus said.
It is just east of the 17-acre Reed Street Yards water technology business park. General Capital Group LLP is completing its construction plans for the business park’s first building, with that work to begin this spring, said Michael Weiss, General Capital president.
Tenants have not yet been announced for that four-story, 80,000-square-foot building, known as Water Tech One. The building will be completed by summer 2016, according to the firm.