Report finds wealth of historic buildings

January 23, 2017


Shoe Factory Loft
Shoe Factory Loft

New guide for redeveloping historic Milwaukee aims to foster growth.

An exhaustive report on Milwaukee’s historic industrial buildings aims to continue a wave of historic preservation and economic development in the city. The report, commissioned by the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office, examines hundreds of buildings to identify previously unidentified buildings that are eligible for historic preservation tax credits. The tax credits have provided a crucial part of project financing that is enabling a number of historic Milwaukee buildings to be redeveloped into apartments, offices or other commercial uses and has contributed over $526 million to the Milwaukee economy. The report seeks to incentivize redevelopment of historic buildings by readily identifying potential opportunity for developers and helping lay the groundwork for getting them federally-certified.

The privately funded study was executed by architectural and engineering firm Mead & Hunt. Released Friday morning, the report provides a comprehensive overview of Milwaukee’s industrial heritage and identifies at least 39 previously unlisted properties (some consist of many buildings) and two historic districts that meet federal criteria for redevelopment with state and federal historic tax credits.

To identify the properties suitable for nomination the study team surveyed 546 previously known properties as well as 364 recently identified properties. To be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and therefore historic preservation tax credits the buildings must be at least 40 years old and satisfy at least one of four criteria. These properties ranged widely in their industrial use, from the manufacturing of beer to boots, candy to caskets and shoes to steam engines. Milwaukee was once known as the “machine shop of the world” and the report takes over 20 pages just to categorize all of the possible uses for the properties.

Of the known properties, 153 were struck from the list because they were previously demolished and 78 were removed because they “no longer retain sufficient historic appearance to warrant documentation.” While every building can’t be saved, the report aims to make it easier to save those that can.

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Download the full report (PDF)

Major sponsors of the Milwaukee report include Cardinal Capital Management, Mandel Group, Phoenix Investors, Wangard Partners and the Wisconsin Preservation Fund.