Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

More Renderings of Downtown ‘Iron District’ Released

11-acre development with new soccer stadium, concert venue lists big-name supporters.

By - May 23rd, 2022 08:03 am
Iron District proposal. Rendering by Kahler Slater.

Iron District proposal. Rendering by Kahler Slater.

The team behind the “Iron District,” a proposed entertainment, hotel and apartment complex, released more renderings Monday morning of its planned 11-acre campus. The partners also unveiled a list of project supporters.

First publicly disclosed Friday, the plan calls for an 8,000-seat soccer stadium, 3,500-person indoor concert venue, hotel and apartment building. The district, according to the development team, is expected to be completed by 2024.

A new professional soccer team would be created to play in the stadium, as well as Marquette University‘s men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams using it as their home field. It would have an artificial turf playing surface.

Designed by Kahler Slater, the complex would sit on land assembled by Marquette at the southwest corner of N. 6th St. and W. Michigan St. in Milwaukee’s Westown neighborhood. The site backs up to the Marquette Interchange, with a large portion of it created by the removal of ramps during the interchange’s 2005 reconstruction.

Bear Development is serving as the master developer of the project. The Kenosha-based firm secured low-income housing tax credits last year to develop a 140-unit apartment building at the site. The project is referred to as Michigan Street Commons in planning documents. A press release issued Friday refers to a 99-unit apartment development. It would be built at the far western edge of the site.

A 140-room hotel would be located between the soccer stadium and concert venue. A rooftop bar and restaurant would overlook the field, as would many of the rooms. Street-level commercial space is also planned.

The soccer stadium development is being led by Jim Kacmarcik, the CEO of Kapco Metal Stamping and Kacmarcik Enterprises. Kacmarcik owns the Forward Madison men’s soccer team and is a minority investor in the Milwaukee Bucks. He previously owned the Lakeshore Chinooks, a summer collegiate baseball team based in Mequon.

The new concert venue would be led by the Pabst Theater Group. The company operates the Pabst Theater, Riverside Theater, Turner Hall Ballroom, Back Room @ Colectivo and Miller High Life Theatre.

Those publicly backing the Iron District proposal according to the Monday release include Common Council President Jose G. Perez, Wisconsin Center District CEO Marty Brooks, VISIT Milwaukee CEO Peggy Williams-Smith, Greater Milwaukee Committee President Joel Brennan, Milwaukee Downtown, Business Improvement District #21 CEO Beth Weirick, Colectivo co-owner Paul Miller, Hoan Group director Ian Abston, Westown Association Executive Director Stacie Callies, attorney and Wisconsin Avenue development group (WAM DC) head Steve Chernof, Mandel Group partner and WAM DC backer Robert Monnat, Harley-Davidson vice president Bill Davidson and Wisconsin Youth Soccer Association Executive Director Melissa Zielinski.

The new renderings and announcement of project supporters were released just hours before the Milwaukee Bucks are scheduled to announce “a new development” in the Deer District. The Bucks’ announcement is expected to involve a concert venue from Frank Productions and national concert promoter Live Nation (UPDATE: It does). Frank had originally proposed to build the facility in the Historic Third Ward before pulling the plug earlier this month. Multiple sources indicated the former Bradley Center site was the leading site to land the dual-venue proposal. The Iron District site was reportedly one of multiple sites Frank considered.

Additional land, based on earlier descriptions and now new renderings, would be available for future development at the eastern edge of the site along N. 6th St. That includes a vacant Ramada hotel, 633 W. Michigan St., and an office building, used by Marquette’s Department of Psychology, at 525 N. 6th St. Marquette, in announcing the sale of the site Friday, said it expected the buildings to be demolished, but the latest renderings depict the structures as still standing.

A two-story, 132,334-square-foot office building at 803 W. Michigan St. would be demolished.

The press release does not reference construction costs, nor a request for public financing. Construction on the apartment building is expected to begin this year.

Marquette assembled the nine-parcel site starting in 2014 for a planned, $120 million Athletic and Human Performance Research Center in partnership with Aurora Health Care. But Aurora pulled out of the project and Marquette ended up building a scaled-down version at 733 N. 12th St., closer to the middle of its campus. The university secured city approval to rezone the site in 2020 to the city’s C9G designation for “mixed activity,” which allows retail, service, light manufacturing, warehousing and residential uses. Sources familiar with the project first discussed a potential soccer stadium at the site with Urban Milwaukee in 2019.

The new renderings also cite JLG Architects as one of the design firms working on the project.

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7 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: More Renderings of Downtown ‘Iron District’ Released”

  1. 45 years in the City says:

    I’m confused. The rendering shows the former Ramada Hotel (and the rest of its block) as-is. The new construction is shown as being between 7th and 10th St.

    So we have a soccer field jammed against the freeway interchange (with its noise and foul air), and an artificial surface. This doesn’t seem like a “major league” facility to me.

  2. Polaris says:

    Oh, god…new Iron District renderings and the promise of an announcement from the Deer District. I’ll barely be able to work, today! Thank goodness I now do that from home… 🙂

  3. Polaris says:

    And, great list of supporters. Smart to release this!

  4. TransitRider says:

    It’s striking how much land is taken up by the freeways in this photo. Maybe the east-west portion of I-794 should be removed and replaced with a street-level boulevard a la the Park East Freeway. (The Hoan Bridge would remain but lose its Interstate designation.)

    In addition to connecting downtown with the train station and third ward, this change would also greatly reduce the Marquette’s footprint. It’s a shame we spent so much money just a few years ago rebuilding that portion of I-794.

  5. 45 years in the City says:

    Converting all or parts of I-794 to boulevard/parkway has been proposed over the years, I believe both as a concept and formally as part of an alternatives analysis.

    The status-que (i.e.: pro freeway) crowd variously laughed or shrieked in horror.

    Then an interesting thing happened. During the most recent rebuild, significant sections were (temporarily) removed. Suddenly, people started commenting on how much better views were and how much better “connected” the Historic Third Ward was to the rest of downtown.

    Alas the replacement structures were built with various attempts at softening the 794 monster (such as sculpted and painted concrete).

  6. Polaris says:

    @TransitRider, from your mouth to the State of Wisconsin’s ears!

    The freeway barrier is, indeed, physical and also so psychological. The Iron District will be a mere block and a half from the “iron horse” tracks and just down the street from the Iron Horse hotel. Turning this section of I794 into a boulevard would reopen possibility for connectivity and also for the Menomonee River.

    I fear our only hope in the short term is activating underneath it. Can you imagine not giving a second thought to walking from Wisconsin Avenue to the Harley-Davidson Museum–and enjoying the walk?

  7. mkeumkenews09 says:

    How about putting most of east-west 794 underground, and making park areas, between Clybourn and St. Paul, where feasible?

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