Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

A Grand Update on The Avenue

Plus: downtown streetscaping improvements and lots of historic preservation news.

By - Jul 14th, 2019 06:47 pm
The Avenue redevelopment. Image shared on Twitter by John Kissinger.

The Avenue redevelopment. Image shared on Twitter by John Kissinger.

Work is steadily progressing on the transformation of the former Shops of Grand Avenue mall into a mixed-use development known as The Avenue.

Engineering firm GRAEF will move its headquarters and 170 jobs to a new space on the mall’s third floor. The firm, currently located on Milwaukee’s west side in the Honey Creek Corporate Center, will be the first to occupy new office space being created from infilling the three-story atrium.

And aside from the renderings released at the deal’s announcement in December, we can now see what that will look like for the first time. GRAEF CEO John Kissinger shared photos from inside the construction site on Friday that show steel beams bisecting the former third-floor food court.

The engineering firm is leasing 35,000 square feet on the former mall’s third level. But rather than squeezing employees behind the counter at the former Subway, the entire space is being transformed, the atrium is being partially filled in and GRAEF will occupy a space with a wide-open floor plan.

The mall’s $92 million redevelopment is being led by a partnership of The Aggero Group and Hempel Companies. “When we bought the project it was like trying to figure out a big jigsaw puzzle,” said Hempel Companies partner Josh Krsnak in December. That couldn’t be more obvious based on Kissinger’s photos, which show new construction being bolted onto existing floor plates and lots of demolition.

I retweeted Kissinger’s photos on Twitter with the suggestion that a Rocky Rococo memorial pizza lounge be created next to the employee break room. While my followers appear to have had a laugh about honoring the long-time food court tenant, Kissinger replied and all but killed the dreams of pan-style pizza lovers. “I’m not sure that will make it in,” said the CEO.

Fear not, there will be plenty of food to eat in the building. The 3rd Street Market Hall, a new food hall being developed on the first floor by Omar Shaikh, is intended to be a go-to gathering place in Milwaukee according to the mall’s developers.

GRAEF is scheduled to move into the redeveloped building in January 2020.


Mall Photos

Streetscaping Improvements Proposed

The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee board will review two different tax-incremental financing district amendments this week aimed at providing a total of $6.9 million for streetscaping and other public improvements near Wisconsin Avenue.

One proposal would allocate $3 million to rebuild N. 2nd St. near The Avenue and Grand Warner Theatre. That street will already be narrowed as part of a plan to convert the theater into a music hall for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

The other proposal would improve Broadway between the Historic Third Ward and East Town neighborhoods. That proposal would be funded by incremental property tax revenue from the Huron Building. The city would allocate $100,000 towards improving the nearby Pompeii Square park as well

Look for more coverage on the projects later this week.

Kinn Hotel Proposed Downsized Again

Developer Charles Bailey‘s proposed Kinn Hotel for the building at 602 N. Broadway has again lost another floor, shrinking the planned hotel to 27 rooms. But, the revised plans propose to make the rooftop addition invisible from the street, mollifying a key concern of the Historic Preservation Commission. Will be this be enough for the commission to approve the project? Read on.

Genke Redeveloping Another Bay View Building

Developer Scott Genke continues to transform Kinnickinnic Avenue. The real estate developer, through Be Kind Rewind LLC, acquired the two-story, mixed-use building at 2870 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. for $380,000 in June. He’s rebuilding the first-floor facade into something more business and pedestrian-oriented as well as overhauling the four second-floor apartments. Learn more.

Komatsu Mining’s Harbor District Plans

A proposal for Tokyo-based industrial conglomerate Komatsu to relocate its mining division from suburban West Milwaukee to the Harbor District is moving forward.

The City Plan Commission will review design plans Monday for a three-story, 176,000-square-foot office building, training center, museum and two-story automation lab as well as a 430,000-square-foot, three-story manufacturing facility. Both buildings would be built along E. Greenfield Ave. on 58.5-acre site near the Inner Harbor. Learn more.

Zocalo Food Park Is Open

Milwaukee’s first food truck park is open for business. Zocalo Food Park opened Saturday. The Walker’s Point gathering place, Zocalo Food Park, is located 636 S. 6th St., a block north of W. National Ave. Learn more.

City, Clear Channel Create Bronzeville Development Site

The Common Council approved a land swap Tuesday to relocate a billboard on the western edge of Bronzeville, creating a contiguous 1.3-acre site overlooking Interstate 43.

The move comes after the city marketed two currently split parcels along N. 7th St. for sale in August 2018, but did not receive any formal responses to its request for proposals. Developers were asked to consider negotiating with Clear Channel to accommodate the relocation of the billboard that divides the two parcels.

The billboard, located at the site since 1986, would be relocated from a 4,950-square-foot site along N. 7th St. to the pentagonal development site’s western edge along the angled N. 8th St. overlooking Interstate 43. The resulting change would leave an empty 1.3-acre rectangle of land along N. 7th St. between W. North Ave. and W. Garfield St. Learn what comes next.

Will The Goldmann’s Sign Again Grace Mitchell Street?

While the beloved old business isn’t coming back, a proposal to install the former Goldmann’s Department Store sign on W. Historic Mitchell St. continues to inch forward. The 24-foot-tall, 800-pound neon sign would be restored and mounted at the edge of a surface parking lot four blocks from its original home. Former neighborhood alderman Jim Witkowiak and Old Milwaukee Facebook group leader Adam Levin are leading the effort. Learn about the vision.

Humboldt Gardens Plan Conceptually Approved

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.

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. Learn more.

32-Story Tower Design Approved

The Common Council approved a rezoning request for a proposed 32-story, mixed-income apartment tower Tuesday morning. The proposal, put forth by the city-affiliated Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee‘s (HACM), is intended to leverage income from luxury housing to subsidize affordable housing throughout the city.

HACM would also include affordable housing in the tower itself. But how many of the (maximum of) 350 units would be set aside as affordable housing remains to be seen. “We are still in the preliminary stages,” said Scott Simon of HACM’s development arm Travaux regarding the project’s unit mix in June. “There is going to be an affordability portion to this, we just haven’t set that yet.” Learn more about HACM’s plan.

MATC Program Would Rehab City-Owned Homes

A new partnership between Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), JCP Construction and the non-profit Social Development Commission (SDC) aims to train future construction workers and redevelop city-owned foreclosed homes, but may need additional funding to grow the program.

The group will start with a home at 2606 N. Holton St. on the border of the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods.

The idea, born out of Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference held in Milwaukee in 2018, uses an approach whereby the city sells vacant homes for $1 to an affiliate of JCP Construction. The growing firm would coordinate the renovation work. MATC students, supervised by professors, would rehab the homes. Read on.

Modern Homes on Hold

A proposal to develop new homes in the North Point Historic District was put on hold last week by the Historic Preservation Commission.

Developers Tim Gokhman and Ann Shuk are seeking to build new homes on an open site on N. Terrace Ave. between the Ascension Hospital complex and North Point Historic District. The site, which is governed by the historic district’s guidelines, is east of the hospital’s parking garage along N. Lake Dr. and north of the Cancer Center & Water Tower Medical Commons Building at 2350 N. Lake Dr. To the north and east of the three-parcel site is a diverse collection of historic homes, including one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Historic Preservation Commission is grappling with what the appropriate context is for the homes. Learn about the differing viewpoints.

Mansion Hotel Proposal Approved

The Historic Preservation Commission unanimously endorsed the proposal to convert the Charles A. Koeffler, Jr. House at 817-819 N. Marshall St. into a 15-room boutique hotel and cocktail lounge known as the Koefller Inn. Developer Juli Kaufmann, architect Patrick Jones and contractor Andy Braatz are proposing to develop and own the building. “As the three professionals that were working for other clients [to develop the hotel], we decided to come together and save this ourselves,” Kaufmann told the commission. See their plans.

A Center Street Rehab

Husband-and-wife real estate investment team Lee Menefee and Lynn Menefee are slated to purchase a city-owned, mixed-use building at 5100-5102 W. Center St. in the city’s Saint Joseph neighborhood. “Our idea for the Center Street project is to completely renovate and restore the building to its original use,” said Lee at a hearing on the building’s proposed sale in early July.

The Menefees intend to redevelop the first floor of the 3,528-square-foot structure into office space, while leasing out a two-bedroom apartment at the rear of the first floor and two apartments on the second floor. A space in the basement, which was once a night club according to Menefee, would be available for a future commercial tenant. Read on.

Tenant Protections for Lead Hazards

An ordinance introduced by Alderman Jose G. Perez aims to protect tenants from evictions and retaliation by landlords for seeking to have lead hazards addressed.

The legislation, which was passed unanimously Tuesday by the Milwaukee Common Council, explicitly prevents landlords from evicting, terminating a lease, or denying automatic renewal of a tenant who seeks advice or service regarding known or suspected lead hazards in a rented home. The protections also extend to individuals who cooperate with the city on investigating and abating lead hazards including lead paint and water. Learn more.

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