Returning Home – An Inside Look at the Milwaukee Commercial Real Estate & Construction Markets and Community ‘Building’

Over the last 30+ years, ARCO/Murray has executed construction projects throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest. To better service the Milwaukee market, we officially put ‘boots on the ground’ with a new downtown office in March of 2023. In celebration of our first anniversary with an official Milwaukee office, Corie Foley (Vice President) and Kelly Beck (Director of Business Development) answered a few questions about local hotspots, including Kopps Custard, and the current CRE and construction market.

  • Both of you are from Wisconsin and spent several years in Chicago executing national construction projects. What was the most exciting thing about coming back to the Milwaukee area?

CORIE: Kopps Custard – the first time my husband came to Wisconsin I made sure this was a lunch stop for us. Kopps is a nostalgic place from my childhood, and I had to show him what true custard tastes like! I am always browsing their Flavor Preview.

KELLY: The most exciting thing is being close to my family and friends again. The time we have is priceless and it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities.

  • What do you appreciate about the real estate and construction market here in Milwaukee compared to other markets you’ve worked in the past?

We truly appreciate how the Milwaukee market emphasizes relationship-building. We knew this having worked in Wisconsin for years and really appreciate that approach to doing business. Our repeat clients initially brought us into the market, and now, we get to be part of the network sharing of opportunities. This is the concept of “Small-waukee” at work – everyone is just one connection apart from a warm-intro. Knowing that relationships are genuinely valued makes every interaction meaningful and rewarding.

  • Knowing that there is such a heavy emphasis on relationships, how has that altered your approach over the last year?

Most of ARCO’s work is with repeat clients that we’ve built strong relationships with, which fits the Wisconsin narrative perfectly. For example, we’re building a multi-phase 275,000 SF warehouse at General Mitchell airport for a repeat developer client that we’ve completed several industrial parks for in other markets. Now that ARCO is more established in Milwaukee, we can more easily cater to our clients’ projects and continue to expand our network.

A major shift, compared to other markets, is the number of cooperative agreements and subcontracting between general contracting businesses. It again shows how collaborative the Milwaukee market is when multiple GCs are working together to make projects happen. ARCO does not self-perform, so we’re simultaneously trying to build our network of subcontractors as well.

  • Continuing down the path of relationship-building and the strong sense of community here in Milwaukee – where have you been spending your time? Any community initiatives that you’re particularly proud of or interested in?

CORIE: I’ve always been involved with Habitat for Humanity Women’s Build. This event combines two of my passions – construction and empowering women. It’s very rewarding to swing a hammer and build affordable homes that will help increase the percentage of homeownership among women. We’ll have another ARCO team this summer!

KELLY: I’m humbled to support the strong Veteran’s community here in Milwaukee. None of us could do what we do today if it wasn’t for the sacrifice of our veterans. As an advisory council member for the War Memorial, I’m able to further their mission: “Honor the dead and serve the living.” This year, ARCO will be completing two not-for-profit exhibits honoring Wisconsin Prisoners of War and soldiers Missing in Action at the War Memorial Center.

  • What other trends are you starting to see that will continue into 2025?

Milwaukee and the Midwest in general are conservative markets, and therefore, not overbuilt. Purpose often drives what we build and how we develop in Milwaukee. A specific example is the multifamily market. From a national perspective, the market is trending down. However, Milwaukee is still building units and in a more promising position than other markets that experienced a large surge and are at risk of oversaturation.

There are also key areas in need of additional housing. The Southeast industrial corridor will continue to provide a steady demand for multifamily housing, in addition to the low income housing, single family homes, etc. to keep up with the growth of the industrial market. We’ve enjoyed conversing with municipalities on initiatives like Kenosha’s “Housing for All” and zoning ordinance updates that are more favorable. We hope these efforts will continue supporting the initiation of these developments.

  • Are there any untapped areas in Southeast WI or verticals you think will start or continue pushing the economic vibrancy of the city? Are there any roadblocks that will hinder these?

We’re excited to see how this tightknit community comes together to make the most of the national attention our city will receive this summer through hosting the RNC. As previous host cities have commented, the growth to their hospitality and tourism has lasted long past the convention. We hope to be a part of the build and preparation for the event itself and see the hospitality and entertainment sector of Milwaukee continue to thrive.

  • You both are huge advocates for increasing women representation in construction. Corie you were instrumental in jumpstarting ARCO’s national Women in Construction events back in 2020. You also run the company’s affinity program focused on supporting and elevating women in project management and superintendent roles. As you’re visiting schools, what advice are you giving to continue diversifying the industry?

We just wrapped Women in Construction (WIC) week where ARCO hosted (5) events across the country highlighting our incredible women as well as those we interact with in the industry. Women make-up about 14% of the construction workforce. That number continues to climb, but there is so much more work to be done. Throughout the last four years, we’ve been able to feature countless influential speakers, panelists and moderators who have shared their personal experiences as a woman in a predominately male field.

It was great to see more college students at our WIC events this year. If students do not see successful female leaders in construction, it is very hard to envision themselves being successful in the construction industry, and therefore, a lot less likely to pursue it as a career. When we’re visiting schools like UW-Madison, Marquette, and MSOE, I love sharing my path and simply messaging that there are numerous supporters who are ready to back them if they have a passion for building, as well as a variety of roles within the industry.

  • BONUS: What are your favorite Milwaukee restaurants or city staples?

CORIE: I love all the parks and trails on the lakefront that are easy to get to and provide a great disconnect from the city. The Seven Bridges trail at Grant Park is the perfect mix of forested trails and lakefront beaches – and they allow dogs! The Oakleaf Trail is also great for a biking brewery tour to all the best spots.

KELLY: Where do I even begin! Cubanitas, Bavette La Boucherie and Sweet Diner are all within walking distance from the office. My favorite grocery store is Sendik’s hands down.

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