Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Foxtown Landing Wins First Approval

Architectural review board endorses proposed brewery, restaurant and adjacent dog park along Milwaukee River.

By - Nov 16th, 2022 03:41 pm
Proposed Foxtown Landing and downtown dog park along the Milwaukee River. Rendering by Stephen Perry Smith Architects.

Proposed Foxtown Landing and downtown dog park along the Milwaukee River. Rendering by Stephen Perry Smith Architects.

The proposal to develop Foxtown Landing, a downtown dog park and brewery along the Milwaukee River, secured its first public approval Wednesday.

A three-level, 28,000-square-foot building would be constructed at the northeast corner of N. Plankinton Ave. and W. St. Paul Ave. It would house a second location for Foxtown Brewing, with a distillery, restaurant and event venue while also providing an indoor gathering place for the dog park planned for the site immediately to the north.

“The big plus of this thing is the pet friendliness of it,” said architect Stephen Perry Smith in presenting the plans to the Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board. Pets will be explicitly welcomed onto the adjoining riverwalk segment and into the first floor of the complex.

The building’s developer is Mequon-based Fromm Nieman Brands which owns Fromm Family Pet Food in addition to the brewery. Two area business improvement districts, representing Downtown and the Third Ward, have pursued the dog park since 2020, and announced Fromm as the naming rights partner and future neighbor earlier this month.

“This whole thing is about public interaction,” said Perry Smith. Garage doors would be included at the rear of the building, with the site stepping down to the river. Fire pits would be included to make the space welcoming in the winter. There would be more space than usual between tables in the restaurant to create room for dogs. The facility would be open in the morning, to align with the early-morning dog park visitors. The architect said plenty of spaces would be available for pet owners to meet and linger. “It gets you away from your cell phone.”

The site of the building is west of the Historic Third Ward, but included within the boundaries of the area business improvement district and architectural review board. The dog park would be built underneath Interstate 794, with the brewery constructed atop a privately-owned, long-vacant lot.

“There is a lack of activation in this area in the city,” said Greg Patin, a review board member and Department of City Development planner. “This really fills in a gap.”

The board endorsed the proposal, but had plenty of questions about the final riverwalk design, signage, the choice of materials and lighting.

“Those are typical things really with any project submittal,” said architecture professor and board staffer Matt Jarosz. He was left to resolve the details with Perry Smith’s team and expressed confidence there will be a straightforward resolution. “I think they’ve done a really good job.”

“We have a client that’s going to do something, and I don’t think this is going to be his last building,” said Perry Smith of Fromm CEO Tom Nieman. “He’s involved in every single detail… it won’t be hurry up and slap it up.”

There are several more public approvals necessary. On Thursday, the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee will review a proposed land sale for a “sliver” of land at the southern edge of the site. The City Plan Commission will need to approve the final riverwalk design. The Common Council may also need to approve an alley vacation.

The design of the building is intended to take a cue from the Cream City-brick Pritzlaff Building, located to the southwest. But Perry Smith said the firm struggled to find enough reclaimed bricks to clad the new building and is instead opting for cream-colored cut limestone similar to that of the nearby Huron Building.

The building’s river-facing side steps back at each level to expose a deck. It also includes a sizable, staircase-like structure to connect the riverwalk and the building.

“It’s a very expensive building,” said Perry Smith of the design. His firm, Stephen Perry Smith Architects, is leading the design and also designed the original Foxtown Landing in Mequon.

The architect said the feedback from project partners has already been invaluable, including accessibility improvements to the riverwalk connection and a second-level balcony facing the dog park. The balcony is known as the “Dorner Deck,” a nod to Matt Dorner, longtime dog park champion and Milwaukee Downtown’s economic development specialist, who suggested it.

“The beauty of this whole thing has been the team we have in place,” said Perry Smith.

GRAEF is continuing to design the off-leash dog park. Scott Welsh of Colliers International is representing Fromm in purchasing the brewery site, 412-420 N. Plankinton Ave., and was an early supporter of the dog park effort.

It would be the first public dog park located Downtown. The nearest dog parks are approximately three miles away, either to the north in Riverwest or south in Bay View.

Alderman Robert Bauman, who has supported the dog park and publicly opposed gas stations and other suburban-style developments for the vacant site, was excused from the meeting.

A historical marker is expected to be installed eventually immediately south of the new brewery following the county’s formal recognition of the site of the former Black Nite tavern and associated Black Nite Brawl as a landmark. The 1961 brawl, which occurred outside the since-demolished gay bar, is considered a major event in the early history of the gay rights movement.

Foxtown Renderings

Dog Park Renderings

Site Photos

2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Foxtown Landing Wins First Approval”

  1. Polaris says:

    The dog park, the brewery, this historical marker, the street activation…what’s not to like?!

  2. MrTea says:

    Great this lot will be used and the dog park is the attractive part of this development. Dear god the building is truly ugly. Do people find this building attractive? For new construction this is just sad they could have come up with something so much better! I cant be the only one who finds this building to be a DOG so to speak?? No offense to all the cute dogs out there!!

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