Urban Milwaukee
Eyes on Milwaukee

Pizza and the Park East

Pizza Man and The Couture win approvals and a Park East hotel is also likely to be okayed.

By - Dec 11th, 2012 04:28 pm
Future Pizza Man

Future Pizza Man

This week the  proposal for a new Pizza Man restaurant received unanimous approvals from both the City Plan Commission and the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. The approvals were needed as the restaurant designs represented a minor change to the existing zoning.  The new Pizza Man will be located in the former Jake’s Big Dog (and Lixx) location at 2597 N. Downer Ave.  A dry cleaning business currently located in part of the building will also be relocated across Downer Ave. to make room for the new restaurant.  The new Pizza Man will include a wine tasting room, a balcony on Belleview Pl., and an outdoor, second floor dining area.

The alderman for this area, Nik Kovac, appeared before the ZND committee, stating “I’m certainly here in full support,” and adding, “it’s a very creative re-use of a historic building.” Odds are, Pizza Man will return to the East Side this summer.  Who’s up for a slice? – Dave Reid

Element Hotel Proposal Moves Forward

The Milwaukee County Board’s Committee on Economic and Community Development heard two project updates on Monday morning. The first covered the proposal by Jackson Street Management to purchase a County-owned lot on Old World Third St. across the street from the company’s Aloft Hotel, just south of McKinley Ave.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has expressed reservations at the idea of the county selling the land without a public bidding process (the state is slated to receive 52.2 percent of the proceeds based on the cost to build the former Park East freeway spur). In response, Milwaukee County officials have sent the results of a new appraisal to WisDOT to prove they are receiving market value in the transaction.

The proposal was originally getting rushed through because Jackson Street Management was anxious to use Midwestern Disaster Relief bonds that expire on December 31;  but now it appears to have no need for speed. Milwaukee County Director of Economic Development Brian Taffora noted that Jackson Street Management no longer intends to use the soon-to-expire bond program because of the tight timeline (the project publicly surfaced in September). The bonds are sold by project developers to investors who receive a tax break on their investment.

The bonds were controversially used (at least in the eyes of State Senator Lena Taylor and rival hotel operator Greg Marcus) on Jackson Street Management’s Marriott Hotel project after construction was already underway.

Both committee members and Taffora appear opposed to Milwaukee Department of City Development Commissioner Rocky Marcoux’s idea of combining the adjacent (and recently vacated) Sydney HIH parcel with the proposed Element Hotel parcel into a public request-for-proposals (RFP). This serves as yet another sign that the City acted hastily in tearing down the complex of buildings before offering them for sale.

Taffora noted during his update that his office has provided Jackson Street Management with a document to respond to that is essentially the RFP template. In addition, despite avoiding a public bidding process, Jackson Street Management will still be required to comply with the Park East Redevelopment Compact.

It was noted during the meeting that the Milwaukee School of Engineering Athletic Field and Parking Complex proposal was approved by WisDOT without a public bidding process.

Look for more on the Element Hotel proposal in 2013. – Jeramey Jannene

Feds Approve The Couture 

Downtown Transit Center Aerial

Downtown Transit Center Aerial

The proposed 44-story lakefront tower, The Couture, is still moving forward, now with the United States Department of Transportation’s blessing. Taffora provided an update to the County’s Committee on Economic and Community Development Monday morning. He noted that former Milwaukee County Director of Transportation Frank Busalacchi received a letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation approving the county’s plan to sell the land currently occupied by the Milwaukee County Downtown Transit Complex.

The letter says the U.S. DOT concurs with the County’s appraised value for the land. What is that value? Your guess is as good as mine, as the letter provided to the committee has the appraised value and the estimated demolition costs blacked out (given that the county’s negotiations over the land’s value are ongoing with Barrett Visionary Development). In addition, Milwaukee County will be required to spend the proceeds from the 2.2 acre parcel on a capital project for transportation (presumably a replacement for the facility that will be demolished).

While none of this news is surprising, it’s a sign that the deal is still alive. Still looming is the potential lawsuit over the legality of building on the site given its lakefront location (the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has ruled the site isn’t covered by the Wisconsin constitution’s public trust doctrine).

As originally reported in July, The Couture is a proposed 44-floor mixed-use building to consist of 180 hotel rooms, 179 apartments, retail space and 775 total parking spaces. – Jeramey Jannene

Word Game

We’re looking to learn what our readers think about when they hear certain geographic terms. Let us know in the comments section what geographic areas come to mind when you hear the following terms:

  1. Urban
  2. Metro
  3. Greater

It’s Time for the Santa Rampage

Santas at Cafe Hollander

Santas at Cafe Hollander

Some people think that bicyclists put their bikes away when the weather gets cold, but for many, riding is a year-round activity.  Even snow won’t stop the hardy group of bicyclists that come out every year to take part in the Santa Rampage. Hundreds of people will be biking from neighborhood to neighborhood spreading holiday cheer and good tidings for all. Just about all the bicyclists will be dressed as Santa, though on occasion there is a candy cane mixed among the group and even a dreidel has been known to join the crowd.  The ride is this Saturday December 15th, so grab your bike, a Santa outfit and join in the celebration. For more information visit the Rampage Santa facebook page. – Dave Reid

Ride Schedule

9 am to 10am – Pre-parties at Cafe Hollander-Tosa, Cafe Hollander-Downer, Cafe Centraal, Fuel Cafe

11am to 12pm – Lakefront Brewery

1pm to 2pm – Great Lakes Distillery

3pm to 4pm – Polka party at Kochanski’s

4pm to 6pm – Post-party at Cafe Centraal

Rampage Gallery

13 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Pizza and the Park East”

  1. Jeff Jordan says:

    Urban: Land area distinguished by continuous high population density with green voids being parks, recreation space, airports and undeveloped land, as opposed to agricultural uses and spotty residential or industrial use.

    Metro: Center city of a largely urban space. More high rise buildings and denser human occupation and use.

    Greater: When used in the context of “The Greater Milwaukee Area” I think past geographical limits and think of influence. What communities near the city would exist if it weren’t for the city? In our area the near suburbs would be much smaller and have less impact on the economy if the city were not here. So I would include them in a conversation about the Greater Milwaukee Area.

  2. Tracy says:

    As always, great updates!

    Regarding word association:

    Urban – Munich, London, Europe (US wise: Chicago, Portland, NYC, and of course, Downtown MKE)
    Metro – Milwaukee, Waukesha, Northern Illinois area; suburbs
    Greater – Indianapolis, Orlando, large sprawl cities

  3. Jeff says:

    “Greater Milwaukee area” always struck me as redundant, but it’s not nearly as bad as the frequently heard “Greater Milwaukee Metro area.” Aack! Better to say “Greater Milwaukee,” “Metro Milwaukee” or simply “Milwaukee area.”

    Someone besides Marcus needs to say it: Does downtown really need another small hotel? The city should be focused on getting a convention-size hotel across from the Delta Center (and/or the Couture hotel).

  4. Scott says:

    Appreciate the updates, Jeremy. While I applaud the prospect of more outdoor seating in the area (nothing compares to Hollander’s patio) PM’s balcony leaves something to be desired. Too bad they couldn’t use the rooftop.

    My thoughts on what’s in a name (definitions in no particular order):

    urban – density, culture, diversity, public transportation, sidewalks, parks, civic-minded, walking, neighborhoods
    metro – contiguous suburbs, strip malls, box stores, congestion, people who (still) identify as being part of the parent city
    greater – exurbs, more rural, long commutes, residential lots measured in acres not sq. ft.

    Between the Couture, NML, 833 East, and the Lake Interchange demolition proposals, the face of downtown is likely to change substantially during the next several years. Let’s hope it’s done with pedestrians in mind.

  5. Jerad says:

    Specifically relating to Milwaukee…

    Urban: Dense neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Examples: Downtown, Eastside, Bayview, Third Ward

    Metro: The City of Milwaukee and immediate surrounding municipalities.

    Greater Milwaukee: Metro with the addition of places like Oconomowoc, Racine, Kenosha, Port Washington, etc.

  6. GT says:

    Urban – “those people”

    Metro – sexual

    Greater – parmesan cheese

  7. John G says:

    Why the push for more hotel’s in downtown Milwaukee? The sheer number of rooms that have gone up in the last decade, with the Potowatomi tower on the way, their is a glut of rooms.

    And I am hoping the Couture project doesn’t take up too much public time and money since The Moderne will end up being a disaster.

    That site should be held for the relocation of a major firm from outside the state or it shouldn’t be developed. More high end apartments and hotel rooms are not what downtown Milwaukee needs right now.

  8. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @John G – Thanks for commenting. What does downtown Milwaukee need right now?

  9. John G says:

    Well, for starters, office vacancy is roughly 21% right now in the downtown market and has been at a similar vacancy rate for 6+ years. Getting more white-collar workers downtown would drive demand for more living units downtown and in the peripheral.

    The Northwestern Mutual announcement is huge, but we could definitely use another project of that scope which brings permanent jobs to the downtown area. Easier said then done, but if you really want something transformative, you have to have more people working downtown.

  10. Chris says:

    Agreed that more jobs are needed downtown. Sure would have been nice to have Kohls see the light, but that ship has sailed.

    I disagree that somehow jobs should precede high end apartments and hotels. They’re all necessary for a diverse, robust city experience. There are few prestigious apartment addresses in this city and the Couture would change that in a big way. And you need hotel rooms to book big conventions. Will there be a ceiling? Of course.

    Relocation of the Hoan ramps will open up opportunities for more landmark office locations. Let’s hope the DOT can do something right, for once, and get that done.

    What’s exciting right now is the pattern of development that is in many ways circling the city center. The river is booming, Pabst could be wonderful, we could finally see a grand gesture of connecting the city to the lakefront/cultural area, and infill abounds. That’s the sign of place-making and vitality. Lots to do, but lots to celebrate.

  11. John G says:

    Regarding high end apartments, watch how the lease-up goes with The Moderne (same developer as The Couture) on high end apartments. Granted the property doesn’t overlook the lake, but I doubt there are that many well healed people in Milwaukee willing to pay $4k/month for an apartment, regardless of where it is located.

    As far as office space downtown, even Class A space has vacancy higher than 14%. If there were demand in this segment for office space downtown, this number would be markedly lower. Third Ward vacancy for their buildings is even higher for office (and isn’t great for every segment). The reason I mention having more jobs sourced downtown is this is a direct driver of people living and playing nearby as well. A signature, premier piece of real estate like the transit center should be reserved for a signature, premier building to a premier end user. If you look at how many apartment units have gone up or are under development in the Milwaukee metro, there is and will be no shortage of apartment space. Adding more $3-4k/month apartments is buying into a temporary lack of demand for single family housing (and condos) and will leave the city stuck providing TIF funding to an building with no real demand.

    Really, at the end of the day, there needs to be profound job creation long term to be housed on the site or there shouldn’t be city investment on this particular site. Manpower previously and NML forthcoming being great examples. For shuffling of the cups (existing Milwaukee employers with existing jobs, no real job growth) please let them use their own dollars to utilize some of the existing space we have on hand.

    None of the new hotels built in the last 4 years or any of the new ones planned directly service the convention space. Coupled with crummy weather 6 months out of the year, you have a tough space to fill when there are millions of square feet available in warm climates. I have a friend involved with the sale of the space and it is a tough sell, despite all the city has to offer. I am just spitballing but if you included this Element project and the hotel space in the proposed Couture along with the new hotel projects added or approved in the last 3 years (Hilton Garden,Marriott, Aloft, Potowatomi), there is going to be a glut of hotel rooms. If there was demand for hotel space directly adjacent to the convention center, I imagine you would see it get built. Note Marcus Corp’s battles with some of the other hotel projects in the last few years.

  12. Frank says:

    urban = city

    metro = citywide

    greater = regional

  13. Jesse H says:

    John G, I think you make some good points about the demand for $4k/month apartments. However, I would place the Couture in a class by itself as far as competition. In a way, it’s like when both Kilbourn Tower & University Club Tower were going forward. Many did not think the market existed for both towers at that price point. Yet, the absolutely great location, quality of product & dearth of competition seems to have carried the day.

    Now, if you’re looking at the class A vacany rate of East Downtown (which does not include West Downtown or the 3rd Ward), then class A has a vacancy rate of closer to 7%. I agree that it would be great to have a large corporate client potentially lined up for this spot, but that’s the problem… we don’t. Holding this spot open until there is even a large client available (nevermind actually interested, coughKohlscough), is just ridiculous. It’s the same mentality as stopping a 3 story building going up on a parking lot because (someday) it could be a skyscraper. This might not be a problem if parking lots(or mal-placed transit centers) didn’t have so much perseverance.

    Finally, you make some good observations about vacancy rates in hotel rooms. However, just because there will be more hotel rooms than “needed”, doesn’t mean the city will be worse off. New, high quality hotel rooms are being built in the city of Milwaukee… this means the competition in Milwaukee & surrounding communities will either need to improve or take rooms out of service.

    I don’t see how this is any different that suburban communities having large amounts of residential growth for the last 30 years in the Milwaukee metro. The Milwaukee metro population hasn’t really grown, merely it has shifted around a bit. Do you think suburbs should stop building housing because there may be vacant homes in Milwaukee?

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