Graham Kilmer
Plats and Parcels

Who Will Build Next Downtown Tower?

Choice parcel of land now on the market. Who will buy and build there?

By - May 20th, 2018 05:40 pm
Potential Tower Site. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Potential Tower Site. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A primo parcel just went on the market downtown, as reported by Milwaukee Business Journal reporter Sean Ryan.

The parcel is adjacent to the forthcoming Couture and until now has been privately pitched to potential developers. Urban Milwaukee’s Jeramey Jannene reported in April that it was created as a result of the Lakefront Gateway project. He also reported that it was being marketed, before public listing, to Johnson Controls as a home for a new office building. And also to Foxconn and Amazon.

The land, valued somewhere between $11 and $12 million, is owned by the state Department of Transportation. As Ryan reported, the site is relatively small in area. But for high-rise building, the site’s placement is quite desirable, and would offer dramatic views of Downtown and the lake.

Johnson Controls first showed interest in 2015, and apparently still isn’t out of the picture, but clearly the city and the DOT are tired of waiting around. They are ready to sell.

E. North Avenue Bounces Back, Again

The E. North Avenue business strip never really died. Sure, it has been shocked by a series of business closures in recent years. But it appears this has been a molting that’s making way for a new creature of the avenue to arrive.

Take Rosati’s Pizza, which has been closed for nearly a year now. That space will become something quite different: Tim Gokhman and New Land Enterprises recently announced they plan to put a food hall in the space. It will be called Crossroads Collective and have six to seven vendors, or “micro-restaurants.”

“It’s the best tribute we can pay to Oriental Drugs,” Gokhman said in a press release announcing the new food hall. He was referring to the much beloved pharmacy and diner located there for many years, until closing in the mid-1990s. Gokhman added that he was also inspired by food halls he saw in places like New York or Chicago. And Milwaukee already has a successful food hall, if you consider the Public Market one.

I think a food hall will blend nicely with the changing aesthetic of E. North Avenue. The strip has always had varying options, but some of its classic fare, specifically, the college bars once frequented by UW-Milwaukee students, have gone the way of the discotheque.

So a food hall with its several offerings should do well on a denser, slightly more refined E. North Avenue. And with a bar in the spot, it should fill a gap left by some of the street’s casualties.

See, eating and drinking never went out of style on North Avenue. It was just the cheap bar food and all-you-can-drink wristbands that did.

Nothing exemplifies this change better than The Eastsider, which was sold in 2017 and is becoming an upscale “cocktail bar.” Many remember it as a college dive that smelled like pee after 8 p.m. and was famous for its massive blue, sugary fish bowls. Now it’s a tad more refined, going with the new mood of the avenue.

MKE Brewing Building For Sale

The Milwaukee Brewing building on S. 2nd Street is for sale, as Michael Horne reported for Urban Milwaukee. But industry insiders are skeptical that another local brewery could move in any time soon, he wrote.

The space is more than 13,000 square feet with a hefty $3.1 million price tag. Horne reported that the current assessment is only $723,000, writing, “Perhaps the brewing equipment, the epoxy-coated floors and the ‘tap room’ would justify the additional $2 million or so for a brewer who is ready to occupy a facility capable of producing 15,000 barrels of beer annually.”

James McCabe, founder and co-owner of the brewery, told Urban Milwaukee he’s received some interest from potential buyers. But the industry insiders Horne talked to said that servicing over $3 million in debt on 15,000 barrels a year could be very difficult to do.

In Other News:

-The fire at Trinity Church has caused an estimated $17 million in damage.

Royal Capital Group broke ground on their apartment building next to the Bucks arena.

-State Street will become a two-way and even Bob Donovan thinks it’s a good idea.

-The Bucks Arena is almost finished. See the photos.

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7 thoughts on “Plats and Parcels: Who Will Build Next Downtown Tower?”

  1. TJ says:

    It will be called Crossroads Collective and have six to seven vendors, or “micro-restaurants.”

    so…it’s a food court.

  2. MidnightSon says:

    Unless Fiserv decides by miracle to build on the state-owned site at the lakefront (and decide to build much more space than its Brookfield employees need) any tower on this site at this point would be developer driven, and likely multi-use. And, if I were considering, this site, I’d want to be sure that The Couture was definite, which it isn’t. Without that development, the Lakefront Gateway project, elevated walkways, and the streetcar extension would also be in doubt., A tower at this site would be surrounded by freeway and empty lots. Practically suburban.

    All this said, I know I’m in the minority here in not fancying this site as especially attractive for a tower. It’s more fodder for those with a postcard fetish of Milwaukee’s potential skyline. While the views will be great–I’m not even all that excited by unobstructed lake views (big whoop)–it’s not especially pedestrian-friendly in that it’s got freeway on two sides and is on the outer edges of the functional urban grid. (Five lanes of traffic to the north, and a whopping 11 lanes of traffic to the east.) Five+ blocks under freeway and past parking lots and unappealing streetscape to get to Cafe Benelux..

  3. Rob B says:

    Personally I think the idea of a food hall with local/micro restaurants is a great idea! I’ve experienced this in some cities in the northwest and it’s a very cool spot for tourists and locals alike.

    It’s a great use of that space for scenario that has had trouble keeping a tenant.

    The couture should have a grocery store and will encourage some foot traffic that way.

  4. Rob B says:

    ** It’s a great use of space for that area that has had trouble keeping a tenant.

  5. MidnightSon says:

    @TJ – You’re not wrong. It does seem like today’s food halls are yesterday’s food courts. In an article today on about the proposed “Grand Avenue” food hall,” Tom Daykin offers this distinction: “…instead of fast food chains, food halls feature local operators with made-from-scratch meals. Food halls also sometimes include shops that sell items such as artisanal cheeses and handmade chocolates.”

    Splitting hairs? who knows. I do wonder about sustainability. Most food halls I know of are in major downtowns that already have a lot of foot traffic. While some might be destinations, most benefit from a dining audience that already exists. (At least for the lunch crowd.) Naturally, the Oriental and, I think, Black Cat Alley are draws. I wonder if Crossroads Collective will offer something in addition to food, like entertainment.

  6. MidnightSon says:

    @TJ+ – Oh, meant to add what came out in the Business Journal a couple weeks ago regarding redevelopment of the old Reuss Federal Plaza:

    “The Third Street entrance area, for example, will get new food service, Nourzad said. It won’t be a traditional restaurant or food hall, she said.

    “’It’s another type of model,’ she said, declining to get into details because the plan is not yet solidified.

    Not a traditional restaurant and not a food hall? What the heck are they planning???

  7. Jeff says:

    donald CHUMP will have his moniker on this ivory tower

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