The developers of Schlitz Park announced today that Badger Liquor, Wisconsin’s largest wine and spirits distributor, has signed a 10-year lease for 24,000 square feet of office space in Schlitz Park’s RiverCenter building, 1555 River Center Dr.
Badger Liquor is the first tenant announced for a $6.73 million renovation project Schlitz Park will start this month to convert 80,000 square feet of former warehouse space into office suites. Located on the Milwaukee RiverWalk, the first floor offices will feature large windows and soaring ceilings, and will house tenants expected to bring a total of 350 jobs to downtown Milwaukee.
Badger Liquor, a fourth generation owned and operated company with locations in Fond du Lac, West Allis and Eau Claire, will move 100 sales and office employees to Schlitz Park from its West Allis site. Warehouse and operations employees will remain at Badger Liquor’s West Allis location.
"Schlitz Park is the perfect site for Badger Liquor to move forward as an organization and for us to stay on the cutting edge of the wine and spirits industry," said John Boulahanis, Executive Vice President of Sales, Badger Liquor. "A centrally located and accessible downtown Milwaukee location will allow us to better connect with our customers and enhance these relationships."
The beverage distributor plans to open a new hospitality center in its Schlitz Park space to train customers. Sales and product education is an essential element of Badger Liquor’s customer service process. The hospitality center will feature a bar and warming ovens, host tastings and provide customers with opportunities to learn from Badger Liquor staff and local chefs about food, wine and spirit pairings.
Another audience segment Badger Liquor plans to better reach with a downtown location is millennials – "the end users of our products" notes Boulahanis – and a key employee recruitment segment.
"We continually look to grow our talent pool and bring in fresh ideas and perspectives into our industry," said Lindsey Pearson, Vice President of Human Resources, Badger Liquor.
Badger Liquor has 430 employees statewide. Having made a substantial investment in employee wellness, Pearson said the company was excited to see the "top notch" fitness facilities at Schlitz Park and other wellness-related offerings such as Bublr bike share and free daily bike rentals. "We love the idea of our employees going for ride at a lunch. These and Schlitz Park’s other health and fitness amenities will be great complements to our existing wellness program," she said.
Badger Liquor will move into its Schlitz Park space in early January. Jenna Maguire and Ned Purtell of RFP Commercial, Inc., representing Schlitz Park, and Sam Dickman and Zachary R. Noble of The Dickman Company, Inc., representing Badger Liquor, negotiated the lease.
The RiverCenter warehouse conversion project is funded with a $1.25 million loan from the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation and financing from U.S. Bank. Schlitz Park developer Gary Grunau said discussions are underway with two additional possible tenants highly interested in relocating to the space.
"Like Badger Liquor, these are companies that will bring new jobs and new employees to downtown," Grunau said. "That’s why we continue to invest in increasing the value of the economic development asset that is uniquely Schlitz Park."