Peter Buffett Comes to Town
Buffett helps Radio Milwaukee, Barry Mandel makes a bundle selling East Pointe and Gwen Moore crows about cave men.
It was a big week for WYMS-FM, the Milwaukee Public Schools radio station that most people in town now know as Radio Milwaukee. For years, it has been managed by a community group organized by former Milwaukeean Peter Buffett, now of New York.
The station is looking for a new headquarters, possibly in the Fifth Ward, and reportedly made an offer to purchase the former Barclay Gallery and Garden Cafe at 220 E. Pittsburgh Ave. for its headquarters. The $1.2 million building has been vacant since 2008. Buffett and Jeff Castelaz, another former Milwaukeean now of Los Angeles, where he is president of Elektra Records, were in town for a day to meet with the board and to shake the money tree for funding to continue its mission.
Buffett and his wife, the former Jennifer Heil of Milwaukee, operate the NoVo foundation, based in New York City. The foundation, with a quarter-billion dollars in assets, made charitable contributions of nearly $1 million a week in 2011.
Buffett, the son of Omaha investor Warren Buffett, has maintained a busy schedule of concerts and speeches he says, and has been to China five times this year. He is a sort of cult figure once-removed to the Chinese, who call his father “The King of Gold.” Buffett, Jr. is “The Prince of Gold.”
Peter and Jennifer, who lived for a while in Manhattan, have gone Green Acres, moving to a 40 acre farm in Upstate New York where he says they virtually live off the land, thanks to the efforts of a resident farmer who came with the property.
East Pointe Sells for Plenty
The East Pointe Marketplace, 605 E Lyon St., was sold by a group controlled by its developer, Barry Mandel, for $15.4 million dollars last week. The 57,000 square foot shopping center, anchored by a 40,000 square foot Pick‘n Save grocery store, was assessed by the city at $8,592,000, and paid $235,921 in real estate taxes last year. So the property was sold for almost twice its assessed value.
Mandel built the property in 1993 as part of the East Pointe Commons, a mixed use development that brought condos and apartments to a one-block wide swath of land that had been cleared for a never-built freeway. Mandel continues to own the apartments, with over 100 units.
East Pointe tied together the Brady Street neighborhood with Yankee Hill to the south, and was the catalyst for the redevelopment of the area into one of the city’s more vibrant places. Previously, the vacant blocks between E. Lyon St. and E. Ogden Ave. had a foreboding feeling, much as the remnant Park East vacant blocks west of N. Jefferson St. retain to this day, where redevelopment has been sluggish due to a number of factors, including County ownership of the land.
The Pick ‘n Save was originally operated by Bob Gold, an independent grocer who later sold his stores to corporate parent Roundy’s, Inc. Opening the store was considered a risky move in 1993, when there had been no history of upscale grocery stores in the underserved central city, but the store was an immediate success. The annual rent on the grocery store itself is $516,000, while the rent for the entire shopping center, which is fully leased, is $784,218. Thus, the new owners, Westwood Financial Corporation of Los Angeles, paid approximately twenty times the annual rent for the property, which appears to be the firm’s first in the state of Wisconsin.
Democrats Whoop It Up
The Hyatt Regency Hotel, 333 W. Kilbourn Ave., was the site of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin victory party election night. Hundreds of folks jammed the ballroom of the hotel, where they were treated to a cash bar and a variety of crudites, including abundant Dairy State cheeses.
Milwaukee party chair Sachin Chheda was there, along with his coworker Jason Rae, who repeated his turn as a convention delegate in 2012 after being the youngest one in 2008. Time flies!
Mayor Tom Barrett was much in demand, giving a number of interviews. He was surrounded by at least three police officers, which is quite the largest contingent I have seen around him. Large screen televisions broadcast the early returns as they came in, and the audience was rather muted while the first results seemed favorable to Mitt Romney. Some grumbled about Florida, and Ohio, and the election of 2000, which did not go well for the Democrats.
Then, the returns started to go in the Democrats’ favor, and the mood of the crowd lightened perceptibly with arpeggios of cheers and applause as Obama pulled ahead for good.
This occasioned a number of speeches from the podium beneath the televisions, where reliably tinny speakers broadcast the remarks of the dignitaries for the assembled faithful.
The highlight of the remarks came from Rep. Gwen Moore, who had just notched another win. Moore, who is as much an art form as she is a politician, chastised the Republicans in their defeat.
“We dug down and cracked our jaws like good Badgers,” she said to the cheers of the crowd. “It was another war zone in the middle of the Tea Party.”
“Misogyny has seemed to be the theme of the Republican campaign. But people are not ready to go to medieval times – to cavemen times.
“Not even the men.”
Old Bar Seeks New Look
“It’s time for a new look,” says Tony DePalma, owner of the Y-NOT II, which Google calls a “dive bar with popcorn.” He has owned the business, at 706 E. Lyon St., across from East Pointe Commons, for 40 years, and believes his is the longest-running tavern sole proprietorship in the city. The bar, in a 90-year-old building which he does not own, but has been in the same family since it was built, is deep and dark, despite the generous plate glass windows that front it. About 12 years ago DePalma added some paneling and old neon signs to the place, and bedecked any remaining spaces with postcards that he gathered from the great museums of the world.
“It’s getting old, and I want something new,” he says. So he has issued a call to artists to come by the bar, give it a look-over and figure out something to do with the place. He likes the idea of geometric designs, he says, or might consider something edgy and urban.
Show up in person and talk to him face-to-face, he says. Just don’t suggest turning the popcorn dive bar into a fern bar. “No way,” he says.
Bravo For Bucks Dancer
Correction: An earlier version of this story wrongly reported that WYMS had purchased a new building for the radio station.