Jeramey Jannene
Friday Photos

RC’s, Buddha Lounge, Warehouse Being Demolished

A 56-unit apartment building will rise in their place.

By - Nov 18th, 2022 03:59 pm
Former RC's Beer Barden bar. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Former RC’s Beer Barden bar. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A crew from New Berlin Grading is making quick work of the building that long-housed RC’s Beer Garden tavern at 1530 E. North Ave.

It’s one of three buildings that are being razed to create a 0.70-acre site for a four-story, 56-apartment building. Ryan Pattee and Shar Borg are the partners behind the project, targeted at those looking for car-lite urban living.

Major demolition started this week and the RC’s structure is already a pile of rubble. The former Hometown building to the west is partially demolished and a two-story building, most recently home to Buddha Lounge, will be the last to go.

The RC’s structure, which housed R.C. Schmidt‘s namesake tavern from 1977 through 2018, dates back to 1955 and is one of several structures that have occupied the site in the past 120 years. The structure now being hauled away was built for a laundry company, but also briefly housed comic book publisher Krupp Comic Works and an automobile parts store.

It’s not a building that architecture buffs will miss. “During the day it looks like an abandoned building,” responded an Urban Milwaukee commenter to Michael Horne‘s 2015 Bar Exam column. The blue-painted building had few windows.

The next building to go, 1518 E. North Ave., is a two-story structure built in 1930 for Wisconsin Ice & Coal (later known as Hometown and connected to a network of gas stations). It’s been vacant for more than a decade, with the partially demolished building revealing that graffiti artists had made their way inside at some point. It was designed by prolific Milwaukee architect Herbert Tullgren and included a large addition.

The last building, 1504 E. North Ave., has quite a history, including a presidential visit. It was built as a one-story building for Wisconsin Ice & Coal, which eventually moved next door. A laundry company took up residence in the 1930s, adding a second story in the 1950s. In the late 1990s, it became home to a tech incubator that counted OnMilwaukee.com as a marquee tenant. President George H.W. Bush visited OnMilwaukee in 2005 and then held a discussion with others about Social Security reform. But the succession of cafes, bars and restaurants that filled the space in the next decade never got that presidential touch. The building was last occupied by Buddha Lounge.

A $250,000 Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation cleanup grant will help address environmental issues at the site, though that certainly has more to do with the former laundry plant than leftovers from the Secret Service.

The developers paid $2.73 million to assemble. In a hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals, Borg described the total development cost as $15 million.

About the New Building

The new building is intended for those that wish to embrace urban living.

Only eight parking spaces are included in the building and another 12 are located outside along a rear alley. Residents could also take advantage of time-shared spaces at nearby properties. The developers plan to offer two rentable Teslas for errands or other hourly uses and emphasize the potential of walking, biking, Bublr Bikes and the nearby Milwaukee County Transit System bus routes. The model, with the exception of the Teslas, is similar to that of many 100-year-old apartment buildings built to the east of the proposed building.

The strategy is intended to reduce the development cost, making the project feasible, and in the long run, reducing rents for residents.

“Urban housing should be cost-effective and convenient,” said Borg in a statement announcing the site acquisition. “While we have other amenities in the building, including an incredible rooftop terrace, we think that residents will appreciate having so many low-cost ways of getting around town without having the expense of a personal car and all the costs that come with it.”

Two commercial spaces will be located on the first floor. UW Credit Union will anchor one, while the other is targeted at a cafe or restaurant with an outdoor seating area created by a setback in the building. The credit union will lease a 5,028-square-foot space at the southeast corner of the building. And while the developers are targeting residents without cars, the credit union is targeting customers with them. Two drive-through lanes and a 21-stall parking lot are proposed. The lanes and the parking lot would be located on the north side of the building, shielded from E. North Ave.

The new building will by far be the biggest development project either has been part of, but both of plenty of real estate experience. Pattee has executed a number of redevelopment projects for buildings like the ones being demolished. Borg is a real estate agent.

Engberg Anderson Architects is working on the building’s design. Greenfire Management Services would serve as the general contractor.

Photos

Renderings

Pre-Demolition Photos of Site

RC’s Pre-Demolition

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