City Panel Okays Live Block Shrinkage
Bucks change plan: complex will have beer, but may not have a brewery.
The City Plan Commission has approved a series of changes to the Milwaukee Bucks “Live Block” entertainment center plans. The three-building complex is intended to facilitate a connection between the arena, new plaza and nearby Old World Third Street entertainment district. The complex is planned to include a number of commercial spaces for bars and restaurants oriented around a series of pedestrian pathways and the large plaza.
The biggest change presented by the team’s project architect, Rinka Chung Architecture, is a reduction in the height and size of the building. The Bucks reduced its size after meeting with a number of prospective tenants. The team hopes to announce the first tenants for the complex by the end of the year.
Rinka Chung project director Audry Grill told the commission, “It feels like a three-story building, even though only two stories are occupied.” To achieve that, the reworked building includes a substantial amount of steel work that enhances the versatility of the building. The finished product will now be 10 feet shorter, measuring 54 feet in height and containing 26,126 square feet of space, down from 53,950 square feet in the earlier approved plan. The amount of signage planned for the complex stays the same.
In addition to reducing the building’s size, the team oriented a portion of it away from the arena and instead towards W. Juneau Ave. “We’ve altered the design at the northwest corner so that the pedestrian approach into the plaza is much more fluid,” says Grill.
Responding to a question from commissioner J. Allen Stokes about an earlier rendering that showed brew kettles inside the building, project consultant Blair Williams told the commission “We are working towards finding a brewery partner to operate in that building. What we have done is move the steel kettles out of the building for representation purposes.”
Williams said the tenant will define the internal functions. “I guarantee that there will be beer there,” he said, but whether it will be made there is open to question, he explained.
These changes come after the team recently secured approval for a connector piece to link the entertainment complex with N. Old World Third St. The team owns lots on both sides of Ugly’s Pub on 1125 N. Old World Third St., and has plans to turn the northernmost lot into a beer garden and public alley. Plans have yet to be released for the southern lot.
Site preparation work for the complex is underway. The team intends to open the Live Block in early 2019. The team had originally planned to open the complex alongside the new arena in the summer 2018.
The design changes will next go before the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee.
The plaza, which will connect the arena and Live Block, was a hot topic of conversation at the meeting. Williams told the commission, “literally if you can imagine an outdoor event, we’ve had internal discussions about how we can accommodate that event on the plaza.” He said the team intends to program the space all year, not just on game days and summer weekends. “Nearly year round there will be opportunities for hearty Wisconsin folks,” Williams said of the envisioned uses.
Commissioner Whitney Gould asked about the number one necessity for the space, bathrooms, which the team will install in the middle building in the complex. The bathrooms will service the beer garden on N. Old World Third St. as well as the plaza.
“We think it’s a very symbiotic process between the buildings and the plaza,” said Williams. He said the team intends for “substantial” programming on the plaza, which along with the tenants in the Live Block will drive interest to the space outside of when the arena is being used.
A farmers market is among many possible uses for the space, with Williams noting they’re exploring all the requirements to accommodate one, including power outlets and mounting infrastructure.
The streetcar is planned to eventually traverse the plaza, with an easement preserving the corridor. The Live Block plans show the southbound streetcar track going through the plaza and W. Juneau Ave., while a northbound track would turn east on W. Highland Ave. and north on N. Old World Third St.
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