Meet Grand Avenue’s New Food Hall
Local restaurants will replace fast food chains, goal is to be one of top food halls in U.S.
The 3rd Street Market Hall, a new food hall being developed in the former Shops of Grand Avenue mall, is intended to be a go-to gathering place in Milwaukee according to the project developers. Led by Omar Shaikh of SURG Restaurant Group, the food hall will occupy 35,000 square feet of space near the mall’s main entrance at the intersection of W. Wisconsin Ave. and N. Old World Third St.
“I love three things. One is food, two is Milwaukee and three is challenges,” said Shaikh at a Thursday morning press conference unveiling the plan. The proposed food hall, to open in late 2019, will be located underneath two floors of office space in the former mall’s atrium. Compared to food courts with national chains, food halls feature local restaurants with craft food and beverages.
The food hall is intended to ultimately include 20 vendors, and Shaikh says letters of intent have been signed for 75 percent of the spaces. Vendors announced Thursday for the food hall include Stone Creek Coffee, chef Yosub Yoon‘s Korean barbecue restaurant Char’d, Milk Can, a new burger and custard place from chef Kurt Fogle, Donut Monster by chef Jackie Woods and Sara Woods, Waterford Wine & Spirits and Funky Fresh Spring Rolls. A beer hall, with final operators being vetted according to Shaikh, will operate in the former Applebee’s space with an indoor-outdoor design.
The inclusion of Stone Creek in the food hall isn’t a surprise. The Milwaukee-based coffee company has done a brisk business with its skywalk cafe in the space connecting the mall’s 1980s atrium space with the Plankinton Arcade space. For the past year it wasn’t uncommon to see Shaikh holding meetings at the coffee shop.
Shaikh said he’s traveled to food halls in Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York City and Chicago to study what works and what doesn’t. “We have taken elements of each and put them in our own here,” said the restaurateur. He’s also leveraged his pipeline of talented chefs to find unique concepts for the spaces, including former Carnevor chef Fogle and former Umami Moto chef Woods, who worked under Shaikh at those restaurants.
The redevelopment of the mall into “The Avenue” has an estimated $90 million cost according to project partner Josh Krsnak. The Aggero Group and Krsnak’s Hempel Companies are co-developers on the project, with TKWA UrbanLab serving as the project architect. The final buildout will include a mix of apartments, office space, the food hall and retail space.
Krsnak compared the vision to what happens at the Chelsea Market in Lower Manhattan. That project, connected to The High Line park, features an often jam-packed food hall, a handful of retailers on the edges and offices above for marquee tenants such as Major League Baseball and the Food Network. Chris Socha, the project architect, put it more succinctly: “really, when you break it down, it’s a place for people.”
Krsnak and Socha both noted in interviews that one of the key things was making sure the food vendors were on the first floor. The Grand Avenue food hall has long been located on the third floor.
In 2016, when the dramatic plans to redevelop the mall were first unveiled, Socha said the goal was to create “a place you hang out at after work.” Shaikh raised the bar significantly during Thursday’s press conference, saying his intention is to develop one of the “top three or four” food halls in the United States.
To get to that lofty goal the project will first have to be the best food hall in Milwaukee. Crossroads Collective will open later this month on the corner of E. North Ave. and N. Farwell Ave. Shaikh, who says he is friendly with Crossroads developer Tim Gokhman, noted: “it’s close, but not that close.” The Sherman Phoenix, which opened last week, also takes a broader twist on the concept by including a broad array of vendors.
The changing downtown mall, which barely resembles the retail center it was even a year ago, will close in early 2019 to make way for construction of the food hall and office space. Demolition work is currently underway.
For more on the mall’s redevelopment, see our coverage from earlier today.
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Read more about Redevelopment of the Grand Avenue Mall here