Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

Adams Hotel Dispute Triggers Lawsuit

Plus: Batttlebox Studios running crowdfunding campaign

By - Jun 27th, 2021 03:04 pm
Adams Hotel at 790 N. Jackson St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Adams Hotel at 790 N. Jackson St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A long-simmering conflict is now slated to become a courtroom battle.

Northwestern Mutual sued an affiliate of Van Buren Management regarding the latter’s lease of a parking lot adjacent to the Adams Hotel, which has yet to open at 790 N. Jackson St.

The companies, two of the largest landowners in East Town, effectively exchanged a handful of parcels on the block bounded by E. Wells St., E. Mason St., N. Van Buren St. and N. Jackson St. to enable the development of Northwestern Mutual’s 7Seventy7 luxury apartment tower and, eventually, the Van Buren’s hotel.

Joel Lee‘s firm Van Buren Management received a 49-year lease of a surface parking lot at 795 N. Van Buren St. for use with the Adams Hotel provided the project reached “substantial completion” by May 10th.

Sean Ryan published an extensive report on the suit in the Milwaukee Business Journal this week.

NM contends interior finishes were absent as of May 10th from the yet-to-open hotel and wants the lease voided. Van Buren Management meanwhile produced a written statement from project architect Matt Rinka dated May 6th that certifies completion of a portion of the project.

The insurance company says in its lawsuit filing that Lee was already poised to default on the first five-year option in 2016, but it granted a five-year extension to avoid embroiling its new apartment tower and employee parking structure in litigation. The tower opened in 2018.

Van Buren is represented by Kravit, Hovel & Krawczyk attorney C.J. Krawczyk, who can keep an eye on the project from the firm’s office across Cathedral Square Park.

“There is another side to this story than the one told in NML’s pleading and we look forward to presenting it in court in the coming months,” Krawczyk told Ryan.

The insurance company, meanwhile, indicated it has designs on the parking lot. “We have plans for the lot, but are not prepared to discuss them publicly,” said NM in a statement.

When Urban Milwaukee visited the site Saturday the parking lot was fenced in and labeled for use only by hotel general contractor ADK.

About 795 N. Van Buren St.

The parking lot at the center of the conflict is a relatively new asphalt lot.

Northwestern Mutual demolished the two-story, 15,950-square-foot building on the site in 2014.

It was originally constructed in 1961 as a data center for accounting firm Arthur Anderson. It was last occupied by the Visiting Nurses Association & American Heart Association.

The site today is a 15,903-square-foot parking lot assessed for $1.28 million.

About the Adams Hotel

The four-story Adams Hotel building was originally built in 1920 to serve as a car dealership for the Wisconsin-Oakland Company (later Hokanson-Thompson) according to the Wisconsin Historical Society. The Jackson Street building was remodeled in 1959 into a general office building and again in 1982 when a now-demolished, two-story addition was added.

A plan set on file with the city shows two restaurant spaces on the first floor. The second floor will contain 11 guest rooms and a fitness facility. The third and fourth floors will be left largely empty according to a plan set submitted in September. A new structure would be constructed to provide rooftop access, labeled as a “future phase.”

Whiskey Bar was the last tenant in the building. The tavern closed in January 2019.

A permit to begin partial demolition work, the start of hotel construction, was applied for in April 2020.

June Photos

December Photos


Battlebox Studios Launches Crowdfunding Campaign

If you want to support the expansion of video game store and gaming lounge Battlebox Studios, a crowdfunding campaign is underway.

Battlebox is located at 5431 W. Lisbon Ave. We profiled its planned expansion in early May.

“Milwaukee doesn’t have a lot of safe, controlled spaces if you know what I mean,” said co-owner Bryant Wilcox in an interview. “If you are into gaming, if you are into comics, we want you to have safe space.”

Since opening its brick-and-mortar location in 2016, the store has already expanded once into an adjacent, vacant building.

Now Wilcox and his son Bryant Adams are planning an even bigger expansion.

But they’re doing so without conventional bank financing and instead are bootstrapping the whole effort.

“I would sell a Playstation and go buy a toilet from Menards,” said Wilcox of the prior, two-year expansion effort. Wilcox told Urban Milwaukee that loans bankrupted some of his competitors during the pandemic when stores and lounges were forced to close.

But things are open and the father-son team is trying to speed things back up. A crowdfunding campaign was launched to draw donors to support the Black-owned store’s expansion.

A vacant lot, 5413-5415 W. Lisbon Ave., immediately east of the lounge would be converted into a patio for members.

A two-story warehouse, 2510 N. 55th St., immediately south of the vacant lot would become a multi-purpose gaming complex, with space for exhibitions, events, design and development. Renovations include replacing the roof, replacing the flooring, updating the plumbing and HVAC system and repairing windows.

Project costs are estimated at $125,000 according to a city report. The city will sell the properties, acquired via property-tax foreclosure, for $7,500.

You can donate via the gofundme project page.

Weekly Recap

Federal Ban On Evictions Extended

The Biden administration on Thursday extended a ban on evictions for a month to help struggling tenants, stressing that it is likely the last time the federal government will do so.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, said the new deadline is July 31. The ban on evictions had been set to expire June 30. “This is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium,” CDC leaders said in a news release.

Read the full article

Hue’s New Home

Among the dozens of projects featured in this weekly column, the new home for Hue Vietnamese Restaurant in Bay View definitely stands out.

It’s exceedingly modest in scale, but grand in ambition and free of regulatory hurdles despite its complexity. It’s the type of thing that was far more commonplace when the building the restaurant currently occupies, 2691 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., was originally constructed in 1922.

Hue owners Cat Tran and Mark Nielsen are taking a one-story, 1,288-square-foot building and nearly quadrupling it in size.

Read the full article

Three BIDs Hiring New Executive Directors

Do you have a vision for the future of main street? Three Milwaukee commercial corridors are looking for new leaders.

The East Side (North Avenue), Downer Avenue and Historic King Drive business improvement districts (BIDs) are all hiring new executive directors.

The districts are self-taxing entities made up of commercial property owners that seek to improve their areas through events, marketing, public art, streetscaping and economic development.

Elizabeth Brodek, director of The East Side and Downer Avenue BIDs, announced that she was returning to Wausau this week. She will become the central Wisconsin city’s economic development director.

Read the full article

Falcon Bowl Is For Sale

Falcon Bowl, the bar, bowling alley and hall in Riverwest, is for sale after over 75 years under the current owner. The sale includes both the bar and the building at 801-803 E. Clarke St.

The 12,197-square-foot building includes the first-floor commercial space and a three-bedroom apartment above.

It is listed for sale for $249,000 by real estate agent Lance Wooten of Riverwest Realty. In 1945, the Polish Falcons of America bought it for $24,750, which is less than what Riverwest Realty estimates the down payment would be on a 30-year mortgage.

Read the full article

New Apartments for N. Water St. Draw Opposition

Developer Brandon Rule wants to build a new apartment building at 1887 N. Water St. on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side. But he needs to do it quickly and at least one area resident is promising to organize to stop him.

Rule Enterprises, in partnership with nonprofit developer Movin’ Out, secured low-income housing tax credits in April 2020 to support the development of a five-story, 79-unit building with 60 units set aside at below-market rates for people making less than 60% of the area median income.

Alderman Nik Kovac held a virtual meeting Wednesday that was attended by nearly 50 people. After more than two hours of discussion and half the attendees leaving, two thirds of those that remained said they opposed the project.

Read the full article

Plan Commission Okays East Side Project

Josh Delaney‘s plan to develop an office building for his internet businesses and four townhomes secured its first endorsement Monday, but not everyone loves the proposal.

Known as The 1500s, the proposal includes a three-story office building (The 1540) and four townhomes along N. Jefferson St. between E. Pleasant St. and E. Lyon St. Delaney would live in one of the townhomes with his family and rent out the remaining homes for between $7,000 to $9,000 each per month.

The City Plan Commission recommended approval to the Common Council of a zoning change to accommodate the office building’s development. The four 3,700-square-foot townhomes could be built within the existing site zoning.

Read the full article

Walker’s Point Event Venues Ready for Business

The George and Madcap Lounge are finished and ready for guests.

The new event venues occupy the first floor and basement of The Block, an apartment complex at 425-431 W. National Ave.

Urban Milwaukee profiled the project in October 2020 when the apartments above were ready to go, but the event venues were raw spaces awaiting a final buildout.

Now the project developers and exclusive caterer, Saz’s Hospitality Group, are ready to show the final product off. Private tours are available with an open house planned for the fall.

Read the full article

Church Will Replace RedLine Gallery

An art gallery is slated to become a church.

But that’s just the latest change for a 105-year-old building in Milwaukee’s Haymarket neighborhood.

Christ Church Milwaukee plans to purchase the building and establish it as a permanent home.

Read the full article

Northern Wisconsin Company Opening Office Downtown

Downtown Milwaukee is drawing another company to the city.

Church Mutual Insurance Company is leasing 10,000 square feet of office space at the 833 East building.

“We researched several cities before choosing to expand to Milwaukee,” said Church Mutual president and CEO Rich Poirier in a statement. “Ultimately, we made a deliberate choice to reinforce our Wisconsin roots and commitment to the state that’s been our home for more than a century.”

The company expects to boost recruiting efforts with a Downtown office near a pool of college students and new graduates. “It also offers a major-market, urban location that may appeal to candidates who don’t wish to relocate to a smaller city in Wisconsin or move out of state,” the company said.

Read the full article

State Funding Vital to Milwaukee Public Museum Accreditation

The $40 million included in the state biennial budget for the Milwaukee Public Museum‘s new facility is critical to the museum’s accreditation, according to organization president and CEO Ellen Censky.

In February, a commission from The Alliance of American Museums voted to table the museum’s re-accreditation because the museum’s current building is in such poor condition it poses a threat to the safety of the collections held there.

About six months before the museum’s re-accreditation was tabled, it announced plans to build a new, 230,000-square-foot facility at the northeast corner of W. McKinley Ave. and N. 6th St. The project will cost approximately $240 million.

Governor Tony Evers included $40 million for the museum in his biennial budget proposal, and it was one of the few major proposals that survived the changes made by the Legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee.

Read the full article

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