Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
New signs surface for downtown mail center redevelopment
There are new signs that the U.S. Postal Service is proceeding with longdelayed plans to develop an Oak Creek processing center — which would free up its downtown site for redevelopment.
There’s no publicly available timeline yet for when the construction would begin on the mail processing and distribution center on just over 60 acres at 2201 E. College Ave., southeast of Mitchell International Airport.
The agency has several years remaining on its leased downtown facility, at 341 W. St. Paul Ave.
But new public records show that Postal Service representatives met on Thursday with state Department of Natural Resources officials about the project.
The development needs DNR approval for filling 1.6 acres of wetlands at the site.
The DNR in 2009 approved filling wetlands for the mail processing center. But, after the recession, that project was placed on hold and the wetlands permit expired.
The Postal Service is now seeking an expedited permit review, according to new DNR records.
According to those records, “expansion and growth in the packaging market require new equipment and updated facilities.”
That growth includes Amazon.com Inc.’s new four-story, 2.6 millionsquare-foot distribution center, with up to 1,500 employees, that’s under construction in Oak Creek.
That $200 million operation, to open in March at West Ryan Road and South 13th Street, will be Amazon’s largest Wisconsin facility.
Along with its Kenosha facility, Amazon may have another distribution center in the works for Beloit.
A Postal Service spokesman couldn’t be immediately reached Tuesday for more information about the new mail processing facility’s construction schedule.
Oak Creek officials have no information at this time about the project site, said Kari Papelbon, city planner.
The Postal Service 10 years ago bought the Oak Creek site, at East College and South Pennsylvania avenues, to build a facility that would be more efficient than its aging downtown processing center.
The project had been on an indefinite hold with the Postal Service facing declining revenue.
Meanwhile, the downtown facility, totaling 1 million square feet, was sold for $13.1 million in 2015 to an investors group led by two Chicago firms: R2 Companies and Polsky Holdings.
In 2016, R2, led by Matt Garrison, released conceptual plans to eventually convert the building into roughly 200,000 square feet of stores and restaurants on the first and second floors, 500 parking spaces on the third floor and around 100,000 square feet of offices on the fourth floor.
That conversion would cost more than $100 million — which R2 would raise if it secured anchor tenants.
The Postal Service’s lease of the downtown property, which overlooks the Menomonee River, runs at least through March 2025. With options, the agency can extend the lease until 2040.
But the Postal Service could be forced out earlier.
The downtown building’s owner, 345 Property Owner LLC, in 2018 filed an eviction suit.
The lawsuit claims the Postal Service has defaulted on its lease by failing to make building repairs.
The agency denies those claims, and the suit is pending in U.S. District Court.