Schlitz Tavern Condo Plan Approved
Developers plan to rehab building on Humboldt and North, but still have a financing gap.
Developers Todd Hutchison and Kyle Mack have secured conceptual approval on their plan to convert the former Humboldt Gardens Schlitz tavern at 2249 N. Humboldt Ave. into three condominiums. 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.
Mack, a broker at the CBRE firm 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.
The south wing of the building, from which a portion of the facade collapsed in 2010, would be demolished by the city before the partners take ownership. “It’s bad and we will leave it at that,” said Historic Preservation Commission staffer Tim Askin of the wing’s condition.
Askin surveyed the condition of the building during the winter. “We could not go upstairs because there was an inch of ice on the stairs,” said Askin of a hole that is allowing water to fall directly into the building. Hutchison said it grew to six inches on the first floor.
As a result of the damage, the entire interior will be rebuilt. An elevator would be added to the south side of the building to accommodate the redevelopment.
“They want ‘this is a good direction,’ before they spend any money,” said Askin. Hutchison anticipates spending $150,000 to secure the facility, including a new roof and tuckpointing, and $58,500 to purchase the building, before advancing a full redevelopment plan.
“We have the concept. We don’t have the final details,” said Hutchison. “Meanwhile, while we sit here and talk about this water continues to pour into this.” He said a loose tarp sits atop the parapet, allowing water into the building.
“Anything that brings it back to life, in this case, is a good thing,” said commissioner Patti Keating Kahn. “When you get control of the building, come back and we will talk about the details.”
The commission voted to conceptually approve the concept and require the developers to come back with a final, detailed proposal before conducting a full redevelopment.
The partners propose to name the development The Kirchhoff after its original architect: Charles Kirchhoff, Jr. Kirchhoff was the frequent 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 found 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.
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