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Milwaukee County officials plan to sell their last full block of Park East land in downtown Milwaukee to Wangard Partners Inc. for a $52 million development with apartments, retail space and a parking structure.

The development would be on the more than 2-acre block bordered by North Water Street, North Broadway, East Ogden Street and North Milwaukee Street. The Milwaukee developer this fall responded to the county’s call for development proposals for the land.

The outline of its development plans are similar to a proposal Wangard Partners submitted to Milwaukee County for the same land in 2013.

We are still refining our architectural design,” Stu Wangard said. “This project will be constructed within the next several years and we hope to start something late next year.

A committee of city, county and private-sector representatives reviewed the land deal and recommended Milwaukee County accept Wangard’s proposal, said Jim Tarantino, Milwaukee County economic development director. Tarantino said he is not aware of any other proposals being submitted this year for the block.

Wangard would pay $2.49 million for the land. Its development would include 250 apartments, 20 of which would be for limited-income residents, 70,000 square feet of retail space and a 450-stall parking structure, according to an email from Tarantino to the Milwaukee Business Journal. The project would create $47 million in tax base.

Other features include a bike-sharing station and enough environmentally sustainable features to achieve a gold rating in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, certification program. Wangard plans a pocket park at the intersection of Water and Milwaukee streets.

Wangard in 2013 was among three developers that competed to buy the same Park East block. It’s proposal then stood six stories tall with 250 apartments and a grocery store. Despite protests from Wangard Partners, county officials instead endorsed a competing offer from Opus Development Co. and Mercy Housing Inc. That development never moved forward.

One significant change from Wangard’s 2013 proposal is the increase in retail space. The 2013 proposal had only a 25,000-square-foot first-floor grocery store.

To proceed, the land sale still requires an official endorsement from County Executive Chris Abele and either the county comptroller or a designated private-sector individual with real estate experience. That land sale approval process was approved earlier this year by the Wisconsin Legislature, and was first used to approve the deal for Milwaukee County to sell Park East land to the Milwaukee Bucks ownership group.

Tarantino said he is working on a development agreement and option to purchase with Wangard Partners for the three-person review panel to consider.

My hope is to get that tied up as soon as possible, but I don’t have a defined timeline,” Tarantino said.

Wangard Partners is extremely active in the Park East. The company is developing apartments on the block to the east of Milwaukee County’s land. It also is working on development proposals for the nearby former Laacke & Joys building on North Water Street.

View the full article as recently written by Sean Ryan on the Milwaukee Business Journal website.