R2 Has Adaptive Reuse on the Mind in Milwaukee

The real estate investment firm sees a lot of potential at the post office, at least at the Post Office Building in downtown Milwaukee.

By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor

R2 Cos. sees a lot of potential at the post office, at least at the Post Office Building in downtown Milwaukee. The real estate investment firm just acquired the 1.1 million-square-foot facility at 341 W. St. Paul Ave., still an operating U.S. Postal Service location, with an eye toward eventually transforming the waterfront property through adaptive reuse.

Post Office Building, Downtown Milwaukee
Post Office Building – Downtown Milwaukee (Photograph Courtesy of the City of Milwaukee) (PRNewsFoto/R2 Cos.)

R2 Cos. acquired the Post Office Building from private investment group Menomonee RP L.L.C., which revealed in May that it had selected commercial real estate services firm The Barry Co., then DTZ Barry, to bring the asset to market with an asking price of $12.8 million.

The property would be tempting to any developer. The four-story Post Office Building, occupied by the USPS since the structure was completed 1968, sits on 9.3 acres and features 1,500 feet of frontage on the Menomonee River, right beside the Milwaukee Intermodal Station. R2 Cos. has ideas for the property’s conversion but the firm won’t be making any major moves anytime soon, as the building will continue to house the central mail sorting facility and retail post office for a minimum of five years.

As Matt Garrison, managing principal of R2, said in a prepared statement, “Our objective is to be patient stewards of this site and develop it in the best possible way for the City of Milwaukee.” And as an adaptive reuse endeavor, the site’s eventual revamping won’t include massive demolition. R2 Cos.’ goal is to transform the existing building into a destination that will further downtown Milwaukee’s revitalization. After all, a new entertainment district is taking shape in response to the planned Milwaukee Bucks basketball stadium. Adaptive reuse of the Post Office Building is the game plan, and many believe it’s the right play.

“First, the structure of the building lends itself to an adaptive reuse. Secondly, the location is optimal for that type of redevelopment–right next to a train station and close to a lot of other development occurring in downtown Milwaukee,” James Barry, president of The Barry Co., told Commercial Property Executive. Barry and colleagues Kurt Van Dyke and James Young spearheaded the marketing of the property. “Third,” Barry continued, “there are attributes of the building such as high ceilings and views of the river and a lot of parking that make it a good candidate for something like that.”

With the USPS still filling mail trucks with letters and selling stamps at the Post Office Building, R2 has at least a few years before it can commence any redevelopment activity at the site. In the meantime, the firm will join the City of Milwaukee and local stakeholders to outline the specifics of the property’s next incarnation.