Now that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena is named Fiserv Forum, the likelihood is increasing that Fiserv Inc.’s long-delayed new headquarters will be developed next door in downtown Milwaukee.
That’s according to people who have been following the Brookfield company’s 18-month search for a new corporate office.
Fiserv, which sells information processing services to banks, insurance companies and other financial industry businesses, is now based at Brookfield Lakes Corporate Center.
The company owns two connected buildings at that business park, which is south of West Blue Mound Road and east of Brookfield Road.
Fiserv last year said it had narrowed its choices to three sites in Brookfield, Wauwatosa and Milwaukee for a new headquarters.
The state Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker approved providing up to $12.5 million in tax credits if the company kept its headquarters — with around 900 jobs — in Wisconsin. Fiserv operates a major office in Alpharetta, Ga., an Atlanta suburb.
A decision was to be announced by fall 2017. But that hasn’t happened.
And some commercial real estate industry sources believe Fiserv executives now might be thinking of moving the headquarters to a downtown site next to the Fiserv Forum.
None of those sources are claiming firsthand knowledge of whether a downtown site is in play. But they agree it would be a logical move.
“I think it would make sense for them to at least consider it,” said William Bonifas, executive vice president at the Milwaukee office of CBRE Inc., which provides commercial real estate brokerage services.
Another source, who was among those asking not to be named for this report, noted the Bucks owners include hedge fund operators Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, as well as Michael Fascitelli, former president at Vornado Realty Trust.
“These guys are New York deal-makers,” that source said. “They’re talking to (Fiserv).”
Edens and Fascitelli have repeatedly discussed their goal of attracting a major corporate headquarters as part of the privately financed commercial development around the new arena.
So far, those projects include the Bucks training facility, the adjacent Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin McKinley Health Center and the entertainment block featuring Punch Bowl Social and Good City Brewing.
“If you had that mix, it will fit well with the parking uses and with the traffic patterns,” Fascitelli told the Journal Sentinel. “That’s our goal.”
A Bucks spokesman referred questions about a possible headquarters to Fiserv.
“There’s no story there — we continue to evaluate our options,” Fiserv spokeswoman Britt Zarling said in an email Tuesday.
The speculation is fueled in part by accounts that Fiserv has stopped talking with the developers for the three finalist sites named last year.
“It’s just been dead silence,” one source said.
All three development firms tied to those sites declined to talk with the Journal Sentinel.
But sources say it appears that Fiserv is taking a pass on all three sites: The Corridor, a mix of offices, hotels and other commercial uses that the Irgens development firm is building south of West Blue Mound Road and west of Calhourn Road, in Brookfield; Innovation Campus, which an affiliate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Foundation is developing north of Watertown Plank Road and east of I-41, in Wauwatosa; and Reed Street Yards, a business park that General Capital Group is developing south of the Menomonee River between South 3rd and South 6th streets, in the Walker’s Point neighborhood.
Fiserv needs 120,000 square feet of offices, and its Brookfield campus could be remodeled to accommodate the company.
But that would contradict Fiserv Chief Executive Officer Jeff Yabuki’s frequent comments about wanting the headquarters in or near downtown to better attract and retain younger employees.
And, with the recent arena naming rights announcement, people are again talking about a site the Bucks own north of Fiserv Forum: a block bordered by West Juneau and West McKinley avenues and North 4th and North 5th streets.
The Bucks have used that block to help stage construction of the new $524 million arena. But the arena is largely done — opening up the adjacent site for development.
Last fall, Fascitelli said in an interview that the Bucks had talked with Fiserv about the parcel but said a deal didn’t come together. He said the Bucks owners understand that landing a corporate headquarters for the development could take some time.
The possible office headquarters would be just east of the arena’s new 1,243-space parking structure. That publicly financed parking structure is owned by the city and controlled by the Bucks, with the revenue split between them. One huge expense for any sizable downtown office building is a multi-level parking structure.
And that’s particularly a factor when an office building’s developer tries to draw a business, like Fiserv, from a suburb where employees can park for free on a large surface lot.
The Fiserv Forum parking structure, connected to the arena by a skywalk across West Juneau Avenue, is largely used at night and on weekends for Bucks games and other events.
Fiserv employees would mainly park during weekdays. A Tuesday morning visit to the six-level parking ramp found it well less than half full, including no cars on the three highest levels.
“Generally, you got different schedules,” said Bonifas, a veteran office space broker.
So, the Fiserv Forum parking structure could accommodate both Fiserv’s headquarters and Bucks traffic — and provide parking for Five Fifty Ultra Lofts, an adjacent 112-unit apartment building being developed just to its west.
The availability of the parking structure would make the Juneau Avenue site “a very logical location” for Fiserv’s headquarters, said Ald. Robert Bauman, whose district includes most of downtown.
Department of City Development spokesman Jeff Fleming said department officials had no comment on Fiserv’s headquarters search.
The Juneau Avenue site was among potential locations Fiserv considered before narrowing down to three finalists last year.
Sources said Yabuki was concerned about the development costs at that location.
But, with the purchase of the naming rights, that site might be back for more consideration, they said.
The Fiserv Forum name “provides an unparalleled opportunity to elevate our brand, support our communities, and engage our people,” Yabuki said last week while discussing’s the company’s second quarter earnings.
Yabuk and Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin, at the July 26 naming rights announcement, said a headquarters was not part of the 25-year naming rights contract.
“This is an open invitation,” Feigin said with a laugh.