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A brownfield site in the 30th Street Corridor.
Contact information
For more information contact:
Margaret Brunette
Remediation & Redevelopment Program

Milwaukee's 30th Street Industrial Corridor project

The 30th Street Industrial Corridor is a designated section of the city of Milwaukee where local, state and federal resources are teaming up to restore the area's economic vitality. The DNR played a pivotal role in securing federal funds to conduct environmental assessments of contaminated properties in the corridor, in order to attract new businesses to this once-thriving economic engine.

Federal funds

Federal funding

In 2005 the DNR, along with the city of Milwaukee and the 30th Street Industrial Corridor Corporation (ICC), applied for and received $400,000 in EPA Brownfield Assessment Grants. One $200,000 grant addressed hazardous substance contamination, while the other $200,000 grant addressed petroleum contamination.

In 2007, the DNR applied for an additional $400,000 in EPA Brownfield Assessment Grants, with one $200,000 grant again addressing hazardous substances and the other $200,000 grant addressing petroleum contamination.

The partners completed the first grant in the fall of 2009 and the second grant in the fall of 2010.

Brownfield assessment work

Utilizing these federal assessment funds, the ultimate goal of the partners is to aide in returning the properties back to the 30th Street community for productive uses as industrial, commercial, residential or mixed-use sites. If successful, these redeveloped properties will also become catalysts for additional public, private and non-profit reinvestment in the corridor.

To date the partners have conducted Phase I and II environmental site assessments at approximately 50 properties. The assessments allow the partners to determine whether environmental contamination exists and then evaluate the priority of the properties for additional funding, further investigation, tank removal and other cleanup.

While only a few of the sites have moved toward the redevelopment phase of the revitalization process, a number of key milestones have been achieved – please see the 30th Street Final Report for achievements funded with DNR federal assessment dollars.


Project highlights

Century City (Former Tower Automotive/A.O. Smith)

Former Tower/A.O. Smith Site in October 2009.
Former Tower/A.O. Smith Site in October 2009. Note Building 37 (center) is collapsing.
© City of Milwaukee

From the early 1900s to 1997, this large industrial property in the heart of Milwaukee was owned by the A.O. Smith Corporation. The facility's primary function was the production of auto frames but a number of other products were manufactured as well, including military equipment, water heaters, electric motors and linseed oil. At its peak, this facility employed more than 8,000 people. In 1997, Tower Automotive acquired the business and operated it until 2005, when it filed for bankruptcy. At one point, the property was the single biggest brownfield in Milwaukee.

Exposing tanks to address contaminated soils at the former Tower Automotive site.
Exposing tanks to address contaminated soils at the former Tower Automotive site.
© City of Milwaukee

In 2009, the city took title to the property to begin assessment, cleanup and redevelopment at the former automotive plant. Site preparation activities will include the assessment and remediation of soil and groundwater contamination, demolition of on-site structures and installation of public utilities, including new roadway construction, storm sewer improvements, lighting and signage.

The result of these activities will be a business park owned by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM). While some of the area will eventually be sold as part of new redevelopment projects, other portions of Century City would remain publicly owned and be converted to public right-of-way and stormwater management features.

The resulting new development will increase the tax base and provide additional employment opportunities. It is also anticipated that the new development will further the City of Milwaukee's job creation, redevelopment and reinvestment goals in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor. More information is available on the City of Milwaukee's web page [exit DNR].

Esser Paint

The former T.C. Esser Paint manufacturing site, located in the southern portion of the 30th Street Corrdior.
The former T.C. Esser Paint manufacturing site, located in the southern portion of the 30th Street Corridor.
© City of Milwaukee

The former T.C. Esser Paint manufacturing site is an abandoned paint manufacturing and distribution facility. Esser Paint began the manufacturing of oil-based and latex paints at the site in the 1940s. Inventories included solvents, pigments with heavy metals and fillers. Site operations ceased in approximately 1999 and the facility was closed. The site contains six buildings totaling approximately 34,000 square feet. The buildings were constructed between the 1890s and 1950s and are two to three stories in height; five of the six buildings contain basements. The buildings are in disrepair and vacant. The first floor of the main building has been structurally compromised and several areas of the floor have collapsed.

The goal of this project is to demolish all existing buildings, remediate environmental contamination and prepare the site for redevelopment, likely as a residential mixed-use property.

Other successes

Redevelopment has taken place in several areas within and adjacent to the corridor, which are highlighted below. Also, the 30th Street Industrial Corridor Corporation created a Business Improvement District (BID #37) to generate funds that can be used to improve and attract additional business investment in the area.


Urban Reinvestment Initiative

In 2005, then Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle announced his Urban Reinvestment Initiative, which set as a state priority the cleanup of urban neighborhoods in economically and environmentally distressed areas.

As part of his Conserve Wisconsin Plan, Governor Doyle's Urban Reinvestment Initiative committed state agencies to partner with cities and community leaders to first identify and investigate contaminated properties, known as brownfields, and then work together to secure resources for the cleanup and eventual redevelopment of these blighted areas.

One of Governor Doyle's first targeted areas for his Urban Reinvestment Initiative was the 30th Street Industrial Corridor. Located in the north central part of the city, the corridor stretches for approximately five miles south to north, and much of the area lies within five blocks of 30th Street. The corridor is bounded by Highland Boulevard to the south and Hampton Avenue to the north, 35th Street to the west and 27th Street to the east. Portions of the five-mile corridor are included in 11 different neighborhoods.

According to recent state and federal census data, neighborhood unemployment is at 19 percent and at least 15 percent of the housing units are vacant. Approximately 34 percent of the population in the corridor live in poverty, and 97 percent of residents are considered minority.

In the past, foundries, tanneries, breweries and motor manufacturers thrived in the area and employed nearly 40 percent of neighborhood residents. Today the factory buildings remain, but a great share of the manufacturing jobs are gone. In addition, with the long history of industrial use, contamination has become a major issue in the corridor. The following link lists tax-delinquent contaminated sites in the City of Milwaukee.

The presence of this contamination, along with brownfields, have discouraged investment and economic development in the corridor. Assessment and eventual cleanup of these brownfields will remove health and environmental hazards and help restore a vibrant economy to the 30th Street community.

More information

Current status of 30th Street properties

For more information on the status of properties that have been assessed with federal funds (including current status, activities conducted and redevelopment plans), please contact Tory Kress (414-286-8268) with the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee.

Last revised: Friday October 31 2014