Oscar Mayer plant

The companies partnering on the redevelopment of the former Oscar Mayer campus on Madison's East Side say they've already got one letter of intent from a potential tenant and are doing at least a tour a week for others.

The Oscar Mayer plant and headquarters on the East Side

STATE JOURNAL ARCHIVES

Two national companies partnering on the redevelopment of the former Oscar Mayer campus on Madison’s East Side say they’ve already got one letter of intent from a potential tenant and are doing at least a tour a week for others.

Representatives from Reich Brothers Holdings and Rabin Worldwide declined to name the companies that have shown interest in parts of the 72-acre site, but outline a vision for the property that could include everything from food processing to light industrial to warehousing to “server farms.”

Residential could be in the mix, too, said Orlee Rabin, principal with Rabin Worldwide, but no multistory residential, and Adam Reich, co-CEO of Reich Brothers, said city officials have also been clear that they don’t want to see all residential or all retail on the property.

Nate Ellis of Rabin emphasized the creation of a campus where employees could work but that would also have services such as a coffee shop or bank nearby. Reich said the overriding goal is the “re-use of as much existing structures as possible” and to create jobs.

‘Any and all calls’

Finding one tenant for the entire campus is unlikely, Ellis said, as “there are only so many Kraft-sized folks in the world.” Alex Reich, director of business development with Reich Brothers, said the development team has specific ideas for what it would like to see on the campus but it would also welcome “any and all calls” from potential tenants.

He said the vacancy rate for industrial space in Madison is about 3 percent, which is low and could bode well for attracting industrial tenants to the property.

“This will truly be a mixed-use location,” Ellis said.

To do that, the companies will need to repurpose infrastructure that had been designed and had evolved to serve one massive tenant so that it can serve many. Alex Reich noted the site has access to a high-speed fiber connection but that it would need to be extended around the back of the campus, on the west side, to serve other tenants.

The companies have already been in contact with the city and the state’s jobs agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., about what tax incremental financing, grants or other public assistance might be available for the project. Ellis said the most likely use of any public assistance would be to improve infrastructure such as water and power service to better serve multiple tenants.

Once the primary auction of Oscar Mayer equipment is completed on Friday, the companies will move into a quieter phase in which they’ll undertake what Ellis said is $10 million in needed infrastructure improvements at the site, including $4 million to $5 million in electrical work alone.

“It’s not sexy,” he said. “People won’t see it really happening.”

Both companies point to projects they’re doing elsewhere — the repurposing of a former Campbell’s Soup factory in Sacramento, California, for Rabin, and a former steel foundry in Columbus, Ohio, for Reich — as proof that they could do the same with Oscar Mayer.

Adam Reich said his company is known for holding onto properties to see their redevelopment through and in five years, “we’re going to be here.”

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Chris Rickert is the urban affairs reporter and SOS columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal.