Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s First Hostel Coming

Cream City Hostel will open on border of Riverwest and Harambee.

By - Feb 21st, 2018 04:00 pm
Future home of Cream City Hostel. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Future home of Cream City Hostel. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee is about to get its first hostel.

The shared-room overnight accommodation proposal from developer Juli Kaufmann and Coast In Bikes owner Carolyn Weber has been years in the making.

Six years ago Weber began the process of attempting to open a hostel. She sought to lease Kaufmann’s house in Walker’s Point and operate it as a bike shop and hostel, but ran into neighborhood resistance. Since then Weber has opened her Walker’s Point-based bicycle shop, now located at 838 S. 1st St., and Kaufmann has relocated to Riverwest.

The proposal before the city now is for Kaufmann and Weber to acquire a former Milwaukee Public Schools building at 500 E. Center St. for $150,000. Originally built as Holton State Bank in 1927, MPS acquired the building in the 1990’s, but vacated the 7,980 square-foot building in 2005. They declared it surplus in 2012.

Weber would operate the hostel, which is planned to include 53 beds. Rooms would be configured to include everything from one to two beds for $70/night to 12 beds renting for $15-$25 per bed per night. Weber will be joined by partners Billie Myhra and Wendy Mesich.

The bike shop owner is a Riverwest resident and sees a hostel as a welcome amenity for the city. She notes that travelers are able to stay in hostels in Madison and Chicago, but don’t have an affordable option in Milwaukee.

Weber says the hostel’s location will not only serve to help foster growth at the intersection of Riverwest and Harambee, but “show people real Milwaukee instead of downtown Milwaukee.”

Kaufmann is applying her standard model to the project, if you can call what she does standard. “Typical of my projects, I will recruit neighbor investors as the primary source of equity,” she told members of the city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. She said she anticipates launching a major fundraising effort in the coming weeks.

The developer said the proforma for the hostel project estimates a conservative 50 percent occupancy rate, which should allow the project to operate with a comfortable margin.

Kaufmann’s firm Fix Development is in the final stretch of developing the Sherman Phoenix project in Sherman Park. In recent years she has also redeveloped the Wally Schmidt Tavern in Lindsay Heights and developed the Clock Shadow Building in Walker’s Point.

The project, including the site acquisition, has an estimated cost of $1 million. “We will need to overhaul the systems and install things like sprinklers that weren’t in there before,” says Kaufmann.

A state law required the city to only market the building to school operators for a period of two years, which expired in July 2017. During that period, Right Step Inc. attempted to open a boys-only, military-style voucher school in the building, but a zoning variance for the project was rejected by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

“I really want to applaud Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs for saying no to the wrong things, so she can say yes to the right things,” said Ald. Nik Kovac. Coggs also pushed back against a proposal for a city-financed grocery store that quietly became a city-financed Dollar Tree store in her district, the site is now Pete’s Fruit Market. The hostel is just outside of Riverwest resident Nik Kovac’s district.

“There is probably no better place for it to be introduced in Riverwest,” said Coggs. “All I can say is it’s about time Milwaukee has one,” added Ald. Jim Bohl.

The hostel would be known as Cream City Hostel. The project is expected to open in spring 2019.

Those looking for more information on the project can attend a presentation February 25th at 2 p.m. at the Jazz Gallery.

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5 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Milwaukee’s First Hostel Coming”

  1. Juli Kaufmann says:

    You can call me standard. I’ve been called worse :). Neighbor investor information also available on Monday, March 5th at the Fund Milwaukee meeting held at Radio Milwaukee, starting at 5:30pm.

  2. mbradleyc says:

    I stayed at a hostel in Seattle back in 1997 for two weeks. That one had a weekly rate that I think was $75. It was a nice option as I didn’t find a longer term place to stay for a little while when I got there. I think you’ll be surprised how fast this place fills up. There will be more than enough and you’ll want to have more places like it.

  3. Jerry says:

    With the prolific growth of Airbnb in the last six years, the market for low-cost, affordable, short and long-term accommodations has expanded considerably. A hostel might still appeal to very young backpacker types though.

  4. Evan R says:

    Damn for 150k I would’ve bought that building had I known, I love the aesthetic and location.

  5. Sam says:

    @ Jerry

    The real draw of Hostels is not just a low cost place to rest (It will definitely be cheaper to stay at than an AirBnB). It’s also a great place for strangers to meet and explore a city together if they wish.

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