Cafe Planned Along Beerline Trail
Plus: State approves Interstate 43 changes to accommodate trail expansion.
The nonprofit will purchase and partially demolish the 2,562-square-foot building at 274 E. Keefe Ave. Running diagonally on a former rail line, the Beerline Trail passes the building to its north and east.
“What we are looking to do is look at economic development opportunities to really spur other things up and down the trail,” said Riverworks executive director Darryl Johnson to members of the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee on Tuesday.
Johnson and the Greater Milwaukee Committee presented a vision of turning the northern leg into a linear park to GMC members in January. The segment of the trail is the newest portion and runs completely off-street north of E. Keefe Ave. The partners estimated that $2.9 million has already been invested in its development including land acquisition, development and programming.
The northern half of the building will be renovated and known as The Connector. It will include a community meeting space for area residents and organizations as well as restrooms and benches for trail users.
The southern half of the building would be demolished, with a new, attached structure constructed. A Department of City Development report says the existing structure is in disrepair.
Alexander Hagler will open Kumba Juice and Coffee House in the space.
Hagler previously owned and operated Center Street Wellness. “Unfortunately COVID did force us to shut down,” he told the committee.
But he’s excited about the new project and said he has lived in the area for 10 years.
“I have a lot of personal connections to the trail,” he said. “I personally use it several times a week, walking, running, walking my dog.”
The cafe will offer light sandwiches, premade salads, coffee, espresso, juices and smoothies. “There will not be a heavy dine-in experience,” he said.
He said the menu was developed after surveying area residents and businesses, including those that Riverworks serves in the business park to the north. “There are hundreds of employees in the area. Many did express the need for healthier food options,” he said, noting Outpost Natural Foods was the only other option aside from the abundance of fast food options along W. Capitol Dr.
The estimated budget for the building project is $600,000. Riverworks will pay $1 for the property alongside a $1,000 performance deposit bond that requires the project to be completed by December 31, 2022. The city acquired the building, originally built in 1922, through property tax foreclosure in 2019.
Area Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs thanked Riverworks for “taking an area that was quite blighted and making it more of an amenity for the community.”
But the vision doesn’t stop with the new facility.
Those plans scored a boost earlier this week when Governor Tony Evers signed a $57.6 million contract with Zenith Tech to repair and reconstruct bridges and the roadway along Interstate 43 from W. Capitol Dr. to W. Hampton Ave.
A bridge, originally constructed to cross a now-demolished railroad yard, would be replaced with a new bridge that would accommodate the trail passing under it.
Further northwest, the City of Milwaukee acquired a portion of the rail line in 2019 west of N. 20th St. for use as a future trail and secured a grant in 2020 to build a trail running north from the corridor along the N. 20th St. utility corridor.
The committee unanimously endorsed the sale. The proposal will go before the full Common Council next week.
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