Riverwest Residents Buy Falcon Bowl
The bar, bowling alley and event space was purchased by the Riverwest Investment Cooperative.
The neighborhood fixture was purchased for $500,000 cash by the Riverwest Investment Cooperative, a member-owned investment organization created as a tool for neighborhood residents to get involved in the development of their own community.
The building was previously owned by the Polish Falcons Nest 725, a nonprofit fraternal organization founded by Polish-Americans. But the Falcons have long leased the bar to R. Lynn Okopinski.
The building is approximately 12,500 square feet, it has a bar room and event space on the first floor, a bowling alley in the basement and a three-bedroom apartment on the second floor.
The building was built in 1882, and in 1913 the bowling lanes in the basement were first certified. Today, they rank among the oldest continually operated bowling lanes in the country.
There were a series of taverns that operated out of the building throughout the 20th century. But since 1945, it has been the location for the Polish Falcons Nest 725.
Preserving the current character and use of the building was the prime motivation for the investment cooperative. “We bought it to facilitate that the next tenant would be a good fit and honor the history of the property,” Lewis said.
The investment cooperative will be looking for a new tenant, or a cooperative, that will invest in and maintain the bowling alley as well as the event space and tavern. The hall is such a unique event space, and there currently isn’t anything else like it in the neighborhood, she said.
The event space has at various times been a dance hall and a venue for live music, hosting performances by artists like bluesmen Muddy Waters and Howling Wol’, and groups such as The Violent Femmes.
The building was originally listed for sale in June for $249,000. Lance Wooten, of Riverwest Realty, who represented the Falcons in the sale, said there were nearly a dozen offers at that time, and the best offer was from the cooperative.
But a sale never went through, and the property was re-listed this fall at $350,000. Once again, the highest and best offer was $500,000 from the cooperative.
It briefly flirted with the idea of redeveloping the former Grand Theater into a community space, but COVID-19 nixed those plans.
It also demonstrates the utility of an organization like the cooperative in preserving community landmarks like Falcon Bowl.
Lewis said the cooperative is hoping the Falcon Bowl project will help “bring our name back into light.” The more members that join the cooperative, the more projects it will be able to take on, Lewis said.
“We are a board of six people,” she said. “We could use some more boots on the ground.”
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