Capital budget would offload 4 state office buildings

A proposal from Gov. Tony Evers' administration calls for selling 3 downtown Madison facilities and another in Milwaukee

State Department of Health Services building.
A 1930s-era Art Deco building is home to the state Department of Health Services in Madison, Wis. Gov. Tony Evers is calling to sell the building near the state Capitol as part of a plan that would reduce state government’s footprint in Madison by nearly 30 percent. Dori (CC BY)

Gov. Tony Evers wants to offload four state office buildings as part of Wisconsin’s next budget.

That includes three facilities in downtown Madison and another in Milwaukee.

The proposals, released this week in an update to the Department of Administration’s Vision 2030 plan, are part of a push to consolidate and relocate staff as more state employees work remotely.

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In all, officials say Wisconsin would save more than $500 million in deferred maintenance costs by offloading the buildings, and DOA Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld characterized the proposed moves as a “win-win for taxpayers and state workers.”

“It fosters a flexible, mobile work environment that will support our state workforce, optimizes our building and energy footprint, and improves access for the public while delivering taxpayer savings,” Blumenfeld said in a statement.

The proposal is included in Evers’ capital budget request and would need approval from Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature.

It calls for closing and selling the 60-year-old Milwaukee State Office Building at One North Street, and for building a new facility on state-owned land about two miles away.

3 downtown Madison buildings pegged for sale

In Madison, the historic art-deco style Department of Health Services building would be vacated and sold within five years, according to the plan. The State Natural Resources and Education Buildings, which are commonly known as GEF 2 and GEF 3, would also go up for sale in the next one to three years.

Assuming the sales go through, the city of Madison’s Economic Development Director Matt Mikolajewski said he’s optimistic about the potential for those sites. The Health Services building has a lake view, and all three facilities are within blocks of the state Capitol.

“They are all really in the heart of our downtown,” he said.

Parts of the Department Health Services facility on West Wilson Street were built in the 1930s, and the building is listed on state and national historic registries.

Jason Ilstup, who leads Downtown, Madison, Inc, believes a potential buyer would most likely redevelop that historic building, while the GEF 2 and 3 sites are more likely to be tear-downs.

“I think GEF 2 and GEF 3 are probably honestly not suited for a lot,” he said of the buildings, which state officials say need millions of dollars in renovations.

All three sites, however, could have broad appeal to developers, Ilstrup said.

“We could see some new transformational uses, including needed housing, new commercial real estate spaces, additional amenities that will attract people to downtown,” Ilstrup said.

Approximately 3,800 state employees would be affected by the Madison relocations, according to the department. The plan also calls for increasing the number of state employees living outside of Madison by at least 5 percent by 2030 as work-from-home opportunities expand.

Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.