On Monday, Feds told the Wisconsin Law Journal that their decision to relocate from Knapp Street in Milwaukee was mission driven, having nothing to do with the Milwaukee School of Engineering acquisition.
“ICE began planning to relocate local field personnel from the current leased space in 2017 due to overarching mission requirements. This relocation was contemplated well before, and independent of, the current building owner’s decision to sell the facility,” said Erin Bultje, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Chicago Field office.
Like other federal agencies, ICE relies on the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to obtain leased space to support operations, Bultje noted.
“GSA awarded a new lease on ICE’s behalf in early 2022 at another location in Milwaukee (where) teams continue to design and construct that new space. ICE plans to relocate the local team into the new facility before the current lease expires in 2025,” Bultje added.
GSA officials said that they start working on the leases far in advance so that the buildings can be properly prepared as far as security, furniture, IT infrastructure, etc.
As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, the Milwaukee School of Engineering has purchased a building leased by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the north end of campus.
Although the school paid $1.09 million for the three-story building at 310 E. Knapp St. on March 1, it was actually valued at nearly 10 times that amount. Kendall Breunig, owner of Sunset Investors Knapp LLC, who sold the property to MSOE, told The Daily Reporter that he sold the property to MSOE for four times less than what he paid for it about two years ago.
“I paid $4.75 million for the property in 2021,” Breunig said during an interview, noting that the significantly reduced sale price is a donation to his alma mater.
When MSOE officials were asked about the donation, they declined to comment and said, “we are going to stick to our original statement, we have nothing further to add,” a spokeswoman told the Wisconsin Law Journal on Wednesday.
GSA officials also noted that DHS’ U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement will be relocating to Park Place VII at 11925 W. Lake Park Drive in Milwaukee. However, “the new lease for DHS’ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will be located at 310 W. Wisconsin Ave. in Milwaukee,” officials said.
MSOE hasn’t finalized plans for its use, the facility will support academics, a university spokesperson said.
Ethan Duran contributed to this report.