Saving a Schlitz Tavern
Building on Humboldt and North would become condo development, "The Kirchhoff"
Mack, a broker at CBRE and graduate of the ACRE program that trains minorities for jobs in real estate, is partnering with Hutchison, a real estate veteran and licensed architect known for his work on affordable housing.
The two secured an option to purchase the property from the city for $58,500 in 2018. The three-story building, which the city acquired through property tax foreclosure in March 2018, is in need of substantial repair both inside and out.
Their proposal calls for two 1,500-square-foot condominiums on the building’s upper floors with high-end finishes and private balconies. An elevator would open directly onto each floor.
According to the application filed with the city, the first floor, originally built as a Schlitz Brewing tavern, would be redeveloped as commercial space or a third residential condominium based on market demand. The 7,798-square-foot building sits on the busy intersection of N. Humboldt Ave. and E. North Ave. at the south end of Riverwest.
“The entire building will be refurbished as part of the redevelopment, including a new roof, windows, tuckpointing and brick repair,” says the application. A significant component of the redevelopment includes the demolition of a one-story addition on which the east-facing facade wall collapsed during a wind storm in 2010.
The interior of the building would be completely rebuilt as part of the plan. “Due to neglect and water infiltration, the entire interior of the building will be gutted, all plaster will be removed, walls insulated, and new drywall installed on exterior walls and new wood studs and drywall will be installed in the interior of the building to accommodate the new layout,” state the partners in the application.
The project has a budget of $1.2 million, with the three condominiums estimated to be sold for an average of $300,000. The application notes a $300,000 gap in project financing which would need to be overcome for the project to move forward.
The partners propose to name the development The Kirchhoff after its original architect: Charles Kirchhoff, Jr. Kirchhoff was the patron architect for the Uihlein family, owners of Schlitz. He designed a number of taverns for the brewery, including buildings still standing today at 322 W. State St. (Point Burger Bar), 1758 N. Water St. (DiModa Pizza) 1900 W. St. Paul Ave. (Sobelman’s Pub), 2053 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. (On The Bayou) and 2414 S. St. Clair St. (Three Brothers). Like many of its peer taverns, the Humboldt Gardens building once had a large turret that rose from the circular structure at the top.
Kirchhoff, through his firm Kirchhoff & Rose, also designed Schlitz’s Palm Garden Hotel and at least three mansions for the Uihlein family on Lake Drive. The prolific architect also designed Second Ward Savings Bank (today’s Milwaukee County Historical Society), P&H’s original factory, the Schuster’s department store, the Riverside Theater and the Palace Theatre in New York City’s Times Square (which is being lifted 30 feet to accommodate a new building underneath).
The Humboldt Gardens building has housed a series of taverns and clubs throughout its history beyond its original use as a brewery-owned bar. It’s been home to Zak’s North Ave, Spruce Goose, Kilroy’s Tavern and Hot Spot. The last of these closed in 1992, and the building’s first floor has been vacant since.
Mack did not return a request for comment on the story.
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Related Legislation: File 190388