WisBusiness: I-94 still attracting development, real estate execs say

By Russell Korinek

For WisBusiness.com

MILWAUKEE — Despite troubling economic times, real estate executives during a Milwaukee panel discussion said today that areas along Interstate 94 south and west of Milwaukee will likely see continued commercial development.

According to John McCardle, senior vice president with NAI-MLG Commercial, a global commercial real estate firm with offices in Milwaukee, the majority of growth should come in the south corridor of Interstate 94 near the Wisconsin-Illinois border, pending a highway expansion that would add two lanes.

“It’s our market, we should take it,” McCardle said, referring to need for Wisconsinites to take advantage of opportunities in the area, even as people from Chicago and Illinois are already doing the same.  

Contrary to popular belief, McCardle also said there is plenty of commercial real estate activity in the city. But, in reference to a pending city-wide paid sick leave requirement, McCardle said a number of Milwaukee’s commercial tenants are showing a desire to relocate outside of the city to avoid falling within the ordinance’s jurisdiction.

The remarks came during a commercial real estate market update Wednesday morning presented by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties and the Commercial Association of REALTORS Wisconsin.

During the discussion, Inland Companies CEO Michael Fardy said that commercial real estate activity should remain strong west of Milwaukee, especially in Pewaukee near the I-94 corridor, but warned of the impact from a slumping economy.

“We will realize the negative impact of the economy in 2009,” he said, adding that closer to Milwaukee “new construction will probably be limited to the highway 41-45 corridor.”

Steve Palec, a senior vice president at CB Richard Ellis, said those in the commercial real estate business can still do well in the current economic slowdown by getting back to basics and avoiding engaging in new construction without prospective tenants.