Downtown Green Bay is a very different place than it was five years ago.
Gone is a vacant mall and brownfield sites. In its place, businesses and developers are putting down roots that will change the look and feel of the area, creating an urban environment designed to attract businesses as well as people interested in living downtown.
The key is Schreiber Foods’ $50 million headquarters that will eventually house 500 employees. That project spurred other businesses and developers to take a look at the central city, says Greg Flisram, director of economic development for the City of Green Bay.
“There are so many projects going on right now,” he says. “As the economy recovers, there is a lot of money sitting on the sidelines to be invested. Schreiber coming to the downtown created a lot of excitement.”
Since the Schreiber announcement, multiple projects have been announced, including:
» Associated Banc-Corp moved its headquarters this summer from Ashwaubenon to the recently remodeled Regency office building. Associated expects about 300 employees will be based downtown.
» The former Younkers department site is now known as the WaterMark building. A $12 million redevelopment of the site is home to the Children’s Museum of Green Bay and the Hagemeister Park restaurant. Wells Fargo and C.H. Robinson Worldwide are the office building’s first two tenants.
» Madison developer T. Wall Enterprises is planning a $10 million, 84-unit luxury apartment complex on the southeast corner of Main and North Washington streets. The project – known as City Deck Commons – is slated to open next summer.
» The former Northland Hotel, 304 N. Adams St., is slated to undergo a $20 million remodeling to turn the building into a boutique hotel. Developer Frantz-Hobart LLC of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is leading the project, which includes the remodeling of rooms and creation of banquet and meeting space.
» Titletown Brewery may expand into the vacant Larsen Canning Plant/Agrilink/Bird’s Eye vegetable processing plant and use it for all of its brewing activities, allowing the current facility to focus on its restaurant and merchandising business. The brewer is working with Smet Construction Services on a project plan that would turn the site into residential housing, a retail area and expanding the brewery.
» Twenty-three apartments are under construction in the Platten Building on Broadway Street. In addition, 3,443 square feet of space is available for commercial usage in the building.
Robert Strong, community development director for the City of Green Bay, says all of the projects are “pieces of a puzzle coming together to create a vibrant downtown. We have employers adding workers to the downtown and adding housing so people who work downtown have the option of living there.”
Downtown’s redevelopment began during the recession when the city committed millions of dollars to build the City Deck, a four-block-long promenade that includes several platforms overlooking the Fox River. That spurred further development, including the addition of the Green Bay Children’s Museum and the Hagemeister Park Restaurant. The WaterMark building – the site that once housed a Younkers department store – was redeveloped and is now home to Wells Fargo and C.H. Robinson Worldwide.
“There’s a lot going on,” Flisram says. “We are building a lot of urban housing, but we believe there is a demand out there for urban, attractive housing. We are creating a place where people will want to live and work.”
Schreiber Foods announced in 2011 its plan to build a new headquarters and research center that combines workers from multiple locations to one site in downtown Green Bay.
“We’re very excited to be in downtown Green Bay. Schreiber was founded in Green Bay in 1945 and our home office has officially been located downtown for more than 30 years,” says Andrew Tobisch, a spokesman for the world’s largest employee-owned dairy company. “The downtown area has a lot of amenities to offer our partners (employees), from restaurants to fitness facilities to daycare and a lot more. It’s a great place to be.”
The new facility is on schedule to be finished in the fall of 2014.
With more employees coming downtown on a daily basis, there’s more interest than ever in retailers and restaurants, along with housing options.
To make way for the headquarters, the city razed Washington Commons, a retail mall that closed in 2006, and the neighboring Days Inn early last year. The mall’s former Boston Store was refurbished and BayLake Bank and APAC Customer Services now call that site home.
Looking to the future
While the central city is getting a reboot, Flisram says the work isn’t over. He hopes to take the excitement generated downtown and have it expand outwards. “Our next focus is the Monroe and Adam streets corridors,” he says. “We have some older buildings there that could find new life.”
With the downtown adding so much housing, there will be a high demand for a grocery store and Flisram is already trying to recruit one.
“Grocery stores tell us that even though we have all these people working downtown that people only shop where they live. Well, now we are growing the number of people who are living downtown and they’ll need a grocery store.”
During the next year, the city is also focused on expanding the KI Convention Center and redeveloping the Clarion Hotel site, which it owns. The city bought the hotel earlier this year and American Hospitality Management runs it. The city is looking at several possibilities for the site, including selling to American Hospitality Management, which would then make a significant investment to improve the site. Developer Edgewater Resources LLC is also expressing interest in buying the site and redeveloping it.
Whatever happens with the Clarion Hotel, plans are still in motion for the $20 million convention center expansion. That project includes a second-level exhibit hall that would stretch across Adams Street to the Clarion Hotel site.
The expansion of the KI will allow the center to attract larger events and better meet the demands of what businesses are looking for when it comes to hosting expos, conventions, business meetings and more, Strong says. A busier KI means more people downtown, which then translates into a busier downtown, Strong adds.
“We project the KI expansion will bring in an additional $8 million annually to the city through more hotel stays, people eating at restaurants, shopping and buying gas,” Strong says. “By not doing the expansion, we would have lost out on potential business as groups look elsewhere for their events.”
There are also multiple events held throughout the year downtown that brings people out.
While the area lost a lot of retailers when the mall closed, Flisram says specialty and boutique retailers are starting to fill in.
“We are creating a unique vibe in downtown Green Bay that will attract young professionals as well as empty-nesters who want to live and work in an urban environment,” he says. “We are making this the place to live and work in Northeast Wisconsin.”
ON THE WEB
For more information on the latest events and what’s going on in Downtown Green Bay, visit www.downtowngreenbay.com
City of Green Bay Economic Development Department: