Brady Street Restaurant On Hold
Historic Preservation Commission pushes developer to return to original design plan.
A proposal to redevelop a historic building on the west end of E. Brady St. into a home for a new restaurant has been put on hold so that the developer can explore obtaining historic preservation tax credits.
Developer Salvatore “Sam” Sivilotti had proposed in 2018 to redevelop the former Hybrid Lounge building (707 E. Brady St.) into a home for Hot Box Burger Shop, a concept from his cousins Anthony and James Roufus. The plans, approved by the Historic Preservation Commission, included a walk-up window on E. Brady St., a second-story deck and a historically-accurate facade.
Roofus returned to the commission Monday with a proposal to execute only a portion of the 2018 plan, dropping the second-story deck and much of the historically accurate facade along N. Van Buren St. “The biggest change is we’re going to keep the second floor, which is a disappointment to all of us,” said Sivilotti.
“So why do anything?” asked Commissioner Sally Peltz of the dramatically scaled-down plans.
“I was so impressed with them proposing to do that that I thought ‘are they really going to do this?’ Turns out they’re not. Bait and switch,” offered Commissioner and downtown Alderman Robert Bauman.
Commissioner Matt Jarosz, a UW-Milwaukee architecture professor, offered some practical advice. He suggested applying to use historic preservation tax credits which could cover 40 percent of the project’s costs.
“If it’s going to be half paid for I don’t know why you wouldn’t go down that path,” said Jarosz. “I get the sense you want to do the right thing.”
Sivilotti said a lawyer had warned him that the credits were expensive to obtain, but Jarosz disagreed with that assessment. He said the process would be affordable if Sivilotti and any investors could use the credits themselves. Selling the credits, commonly used on large projects like the Milwaukee Athletic Club, can add a cost-burden to historic redevelopment projects because of the lack of a true market.
There is an unusual quirk aiding Jarosz’s push for the tax credits: the lack of historical photos. The only photo found by Historic Preservation Commission staff is from a city record showing when the intersection of N. Van Buren St., N. Holton St. and E. Brady St. was rebuilt in 1925. Much of the Brady Street facade on the building was then covered by a billboard.
That billboard could save Sivilotti thousands of dollars. It would eliminate the requirement from the National Parks Service to restore the windows that were undoubtedly previously there.
“This seems like a layup for the tax credit program,” said Jarosz.
The professor made a motion to deny Sivilotti’s modified plan so the developer could pursue the credits.
“It looks like you want to do the right thing, so let’s do that,” said Jarosz. The commission unanimously backed his motion.
The building, long used as a tavern, dates back to at least 1881 according to city records. It was originally home to a butcher shop. For an extensive history on the structure, see Michael Horne‘s 2015 column on Hybrid Lounge and the building.
Sivilotti is working with Thomas Vavra of Vavra Design on the project.
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