Graham Kilmer

Real Estate Firm Revitalizes Holton Street Building

Former home of the Jazz Oasis also getting a mural by local artist Tia Richardson.

By - Jul 22nd, 2021 06:11 pm
McKenna Real Estate at 2379 N. Holton St. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

McKenna Real Estate at 2379 N. Holton St. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

A dilapidated building on N. Holton Street is getting rehabilitated thanks to a new real estate company.

Paul McKenna recently purchased the building at 2379 N. Holton St., which he is using as the new offices for his real estate brokerage, McKenna Real Estate.

McKenna lives in Brewers Hill and tells Urban Milwaukee the building always fascinated him as he drove past it on his way to work.

“It’s such a cool building,” he says.

McKenna is an attorney, and veteran of the U.S. Navy. Before he got into real estate, he was working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Between 2014 and 2019 he was a part-time student at Marquette Law School. But after he graduated and passed the bar, he said he quickly realized he didn’t enjoy practicing law

He had an LLC that he was using to buy properties, and decided to begin using it as a brokerage where he offers prospective home sellers something he says the bigger brokerages can’t, or won’t: a 1.6% commission.

“Some of these brokers just gouge people,” he says

While McKenna’s boutique brokerage is in new digs, it’s not new to the neighborhood. Before moving into the building at the corner of Holton and Meinecke, McKenna used to rent office space just one block up the street at 2349 N. Holton St.

The building itself has a place in Milwaukee music history. Roughly two decades ago it was home to the Jazz Oasis. Local Jazz Legend Manty Ellis told 88Nine Radio Milwaukee in 2016 that the Marsalis brothers would play there when they came to the city, referring to Wynton and Branford Marsalis. He also said R&B singer Al Jarreau would hang out there after he played in Milwaukee.

McKenna’s building is also in the process of having a mural painted on its western facade by local artist Tia Richardson

McKenna says he got a call one day from someone asking if they could put a mural on his building and he loved the idea. The mural is being paid for by Jack Daniels the whiskey producer and the Milwaukee Bucks.

The mural is part of a “mural initiative” being sponsored by the whiskey producer and the Bucks that is intended to “pay tribute to to the diverse communities of Milwaukee,” according to a Jack Daniels webpage for the project, while also including Jack Daniels product placement and Bucks’ logos — lest anyone forget who paid for the murals. One of the muralists is also a former player for the Milwaukee Bucks, Desmond Mason.

The piece is called “Heart and Soul” and it was first unveiled on a whiskey barrel at the Fiserv Forum in early June. Richardson explained the mural in a Facebook post: “This art piece was commissioned to celebrate the heart and soul of the black experience in Milwaukee for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey flavor.”

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