Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Herb Kohl’s Arena Commitment, The Second Downtown Strip Club, Northwestern Mutual’s New Downtown Building, and More

By - May 9th, 2012 04:25 pm
Eyes on Milwaukee

Eyes on Milwaukee

This week’s Eyes on Milwaukee column explores Herb Kohl‘s commitment to a new arena, the idea of another downtown strip club, Northwestern Mutual’s potential new downtown building, and a whole lot more.

Herb Kohl’s Arena Commitment

At his annual end of the season press conference, team owner Herb Kohl announced his commitment to helping finance a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. Kohl got a lot of attention for committing to help finance a new arena, but avoided getting into details. It’s important to note that even though new stadiums are often built with substantial public investment, the teams themselves often contribute to the facility. This is no more clear than in Minnesota, where the Minnesota Vikings’ team share is one of the hot button issues for their new facility.

While Kohl said his commitment would be “not insignificant,” it’s unreasonable to hold our breath assuming he’ll pay for the majority of a new facility himself. Milwaukee got lucky once with Jane and Lloyd Pettit paying for the entire Bradley Center (with the hope of landing an NHL team – which is part of the reason the facility has so quickly become outdated), but it’s pretty clear that won’t happen again.

For a point of reference on current arena costs, the newest arena in the NBA, the Amway Center in Orlando, cost $480 million. I would guess a new facility in Milwaukee would cost less than that, but it’s not going to come in under $100 million like the Bradley Center did.

All in all, the most significant thing Herb Kohl did is start the public push for a new arena. We should expect whomever owns the Bucks to contribute to the costs of a new arena. That said, Kohl’s move of publicly announcing his commitment was certainly a shrewd public relations move.

We will certainly discuss this topic at length in the future. We’ve even in the past discussed tearing down the Bradley Center for a new facility.

A Second Downtown Milwaukee Strip Club

Silk owner Jon Ferraro is back with another license application for a strip club on Old World Third Street. He is applying at the same location he previously applied at, 730 N. Old World Third St., Of note, Jon Ferraro’s lawsuit against the city regarding his previous application for a strip club in this space (in 2010) is still pending. I assume the two are related, and I’m pretty sure we will find out soon how.

It’s important to note that if granted, Silk East would be the second strip club downtown. Art’s Performing Center is located at 144 E. Juneau Ave. Although only garnering 1 and a half stars on Yelp, Art’s clearly hasn’t damaged the image of downtown, and there isn’t any reason to believe Silk East would either. Aspiring to be like downtown Minneapolis and its numerous strip clubs on the other hand, that’s a bad idea.

Northwestern Mutual’s Possible New Downtown Building Staying Quiet

The Quiet Company has succeeded in keeping their development of a new facility to house hundreds of employees quiet. As a reminder, Northwestern Mutual announced in September of 2011 that they would demolish the 16-story brown office building located on the southeast corner of Mason and Cass streets because of looming long-term maintenance costs. In December it was announced they would buy the building located at 733 N. Van Buren Street from Joel Lee‘s Van Buren Building Co, with the intent to close on the purchase in 2012 and move employees in 2013. The newly acquired building, formerly home of Cramer-Krasselt, was assessed at $4,502,000 in 2011.

Will the company stay and keep this batch of employees downtown? That remains to be seen, as the firm indicated they’re looking at their options for a new building downtown (where it currently has employees 3,000) or relocating the employees to the Franklin campus (2,000 existing employees). With the failure of Mayor Barrett to fit a square peg into a round hole by getting Kohl’s to move to the Park East, expect the city to throw everything they can at Northwestern Mutual to make sure their new building is downtown.

If the City fails to land the new building it will be quite ironic to see the Downtown Transit Center redeveloped while Northwestern Mutual replaces their 500,000 square foot building with a parking lot or empty park.

Facade Repair

Jeff Sherman notes the new “facade” given to the covered buildings on the 600 block of N. Broadway, just south of Wisconsin Ave. The buildings were formerly covered by an ugly wood facade, but it’s now painted to resemble resemble a building. While the new “facade” is a significant improvement, it’s a shame it took years to come together, and a real tenant would certainly be far more desired.

Sherman noted the new Marriott Hotel under construction a block away, but even more appreciative of the improvement to this empty building are likely the owners of the Hilton Garden Inn. The hotel, which is under construction on the same block, will occupy the rehabbed Loyalty Building. The website for the Hilton Garden Inn is now online.

As far as facade upgrades in the area go, the pair of buildings around the corner on Wisconsin Ave take the cake for an improvement (all part of the same parcel as the hidden the Broadway buildings). Ultimately though, all are a hollow effort until actual tenants move in.

For what it’s worth I’m also eager to see renovations get underway to improve the Iron Block Building at the corner of Water and Wisconsin. The Iron Block Building is one of the historic buildings that help give downtown Milwaukee its charming character.

Development News

The Milwaukee County Transportation, Public Works, and Transit Committee unanimously authorized the Director of the Department of Transportation to declare surplus and offer for sale the Downtown Transit Center today. This move keeps the redevelopment of the Downtown Transit Center on track. The authorization will now go before the full Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. Of note, the proceeds from the sale of the land will need to go for capital projects for transit in Milwaukee County, not for operating funds.

Openings and Closings

Cafe Centraal is expanding east. The Lowlands Group restaurant will occupy the space immediately to its east on E. Lincoln Ave that formerly housed an acupuncture and massage therapy business.

City.Net Cafe is coming soon to E. Wisconsin Avenue just east of Broadway. The original City.Net Cafe is open at 7211 W. Burgleigh Street. The website for the existing cafe is, not City.Net. The cafe is owned by Sam Belton.

The Dogg House on Jefferson Street will be short-lived, at least for now. At the first regular meeting of the Licenses Committee during the current Milwaukee Common Council session, owner Mazen Muna was informed that he has likely been operating illegally (despite his understanding that the Health Dept had cleared his operation). Muna currently operates four other locations within the City of Milwaukee. This only goes to show how the City’s licensing process is at times quite confusing and ripe for overhaul. As of lunch today, the restaurant is still open presumably using some form of double jeopardy defense.

Greek Village Gyros intends to open at 1888 N. Humboldt Ave. the location was formerly home to Meglio Pizzeria. The registered agent on the liquor license application is George Dimitropoulos.

O’Lydia’s Bar and Grill, 338 S. 1st Street (formerly Slim McGinn’s), is opening an art gallery on its second floor. OnMilwaukee has more.

Rumor Lounge, an upscale lounge, has had their liquor license approved at Monday’s Licenses Committee meeting. The lounge will open at the corner of Pittsburgh Avenue and 1st Street in Vetter Denk’s headquarters (161 South 1st Street).

The Twisted Fisherman Crab Shack also had their liquor license approved at Monday’s Licenses Committee meeting. The Crab Shack is the latest venture from Russ Davis and will open in a converted warehouse in the Menomonee Valley. Davis also has operated Rio West Cantina, Lakefront Brewery Palm Garden, Riverwalk Boat Tours and the Hubbard Park Lodge. He formerly operated Cafe Vecchio and later The Red Accordian in the space currently occupied by The Loaded Slate.

Categories: Eyes on Milwaukee

5 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Herb Kohl’s Arena Commitment, The Second Downtown Strip Club, Northwestern Mutual’s New Downtown Building, and More”

  1. Kevin Muhs says:

    Jeramey – Wasn’t the World’s Largest Qdoba auctioned yesterday? Have we heard anything of the results?

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Kevin We haven’t heard yet…

  3. Charlie F. says:

    The Orlando Magic’s new arena was ~$309M in construction costs. No way they spent another $171M in soft costs. Could you site a source for this claim?

  4. chili says:

    I understand that there are forces at work pushing NML to not build a new building but rather take several floors in the proposed Washington Squae building at Mason and Jefferson. It’s my understanding that if NML decides to come into the building it will exceed 45 stories and become the tallest building in Wisconsin. The US Bank building has held that disticntion for over 35 years. Its about time we pass that title on to a new modern sky(?) scraper. A building like that will do much more for city pride, density, progress and our skyline than another 10 to 15 story mid-rise on their campus.

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