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Civic champion and noted Milwaukee real estate developer Gary Grunau dies at 80 after battling brain cancer

Gary Grunau

MILWAUKEE — Gary Grunau, civic champion and noted Milwaukee real estate developer passed away Wednesday, Sept. 25 after a two-year battle with brain cancer, his family announced.

A news release stated, “Despite his diagnosis and treatment, Grunau continued to charge forward, firmly focused on the future with a busy agenda at work and in the community.”

Grunau was a lifelong Milwaukee resident who was instrumental in some of the region’s most innovative and successful urban development projects including the iconic, riverfront Schlitz Park office complex. Purchased by the Grunau and Sampson families in 1983, Grunau and partners invested millions to convert the former Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co. site into what is now one of downtown’s most desirable workplaces.   Sold earlier this year, Schlitz Park has been a major catalyst for an endless wave of economic development.

Other Grunau projects included the Hyatt Regency, Wisconsin Center, Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin, ManpowerGroup world headquarters, Milwaukee Riverwalk System, and the former Time Warner Building, the release said.

His projects won numerous awards, including the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Achievement Award and The National Council for Urban Economic Development Award.  One of the most meaningful to Grunau was the ULI’s 2017-2018 Global Award of Excellence for the Milwaukee Riverwalk, considered among the world’s highest honors from land use experts.

Before his death, Gruneau received the Daniel Burnham Visionary award, presented by the Milwaukee Riverwalk District.

Grunau led and served on numerous boards, including the Milwaukee Academy of Science, Discovery World, Alverno College Board of Trustees, Milwaukee Riverwalk District, Spirit of Milwaukee, and Greater Milwaukee Committee.

Funeral services are as follows:

  • Visitation Sunday, Sept. 29 at Pilot House at Discovery World, 500 N. Harbor Drive, Milwaukee, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Visitation Monday, Sept. 30 at Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 812 N. Jackson Street, Milwaukee, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • Memorial Mass Monday, Sept. 30 at 11 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Gary P. Grunau “Good for Milwaukee” Fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, 101 W. Pleasant Street, Ste 210, Milwaukee, 53212.

Alderman Michael Murphy issued the following statement:

“I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Gary Grunau – a visionary leader for Milwaukee who led the city on so many key development deals. His acumen and leadership played a big part in making so many important developments happen, including the Schlitz Park office complex, the RiverWalk and the Convention Center.”

“During my years of service as an alderman I found Gary to be an engaged, passionate and thoughtful business leader – and a good person.”

“May he rest in peace and I offer my sincerest condolences to his family and friends.”

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