Jeramey Jannene
Friday Photos

Downtown Ramada Being Deconstructed, Recycled

Recyclean is taking the building apart. Will the Iron District rise in its place?

By - Feb 17th, 2023 05:17 pm
Ramada Milwaukee Downtown demolition, 633 W. Michigan St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Ramada Milwaukee Downtown demolition, 633 W. Michigan St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The former Ramada hotel in downtown Milwaukee will soon be no more. But instead of taking a wrecking ball to it, Recyclean is deconstructing the building, 633 W. Michigan St., with a focus on saving as many materials for resale or recycling as possible.

Its environmentally-friendly removal is one of the first visible signs of the proposed Iron District, an 11-acre, mixed-use development that would include a stadium, concert hall, hotel, apartments and other uses.

The seven-story, 155-room hotel opened in 1967 in the southwestern corner of Downtown, but was shuttered in 2018. It spent the last year of its life as the unaffiliated “City Center Hotel Milwaukee.” Marquette University acquired the property in 2015 as part of a since-aborted plan to develop a health, wellness and athletics facility on the larger site.

The hotel, according to a 1965 Milwaukee Journal article, had a $2.2 million development cost. The underlying property sold for virtually that same amount in June, with an affiliate of Kenosha-based Bear Development paying $2.25 million for the 1.84-acre property as part of a series of transactions to buy the Iron District site from Marquette. A raze permit says Bear is now paying Recyclean, another Kenosha firm, $20,000 to remove the structure. Marquette paid an Oconomowoc investment group $3.8 million for the property.

The hotel was developed in the leadup to the 1968 American Legion convention, which was to fill 6,000 rooms in the city. Local legion leaders told a committee of civic leaders and boosters during a December 1965 that the city needed to build more hotel rooms or the national group would look elsewhere.

A January 1966 Milwaukee Sentinel article described the then-proposed Ramada’s first floor as the future site of an “exquisite cocktail lounge and dining room which will rival Hollywood’s plush bistros.” No one that stepped foot in what was last the “Michigan Grill Restaurant & Bar” would describe the experience in such fanciful language. Likewise, the outdoor pool with freeway views at the rear of the building spent nearly the last two decades of its life as an empty hole.

Prior to the site being occupied by the 96,022-square-foot hotel building, the lot was used for a bakery, reported as the biggest in the state. Michael Carpenter purchased the property and opened a bakery in 1915 capable of producing 80,000 loaves of bread per day. The business was then known as M. Carpenter Baking Company, but Carpenter had worked for numerous bakeries dating back to 1860. The bakery, which faced N. 7th St., was demolished in 1960.

What comes next for the property? That’s unclear. Bear is the master developer for the Iron District, but the company hasn’t released specific plans for the Ramada site.

The central focus of the plan is an outdoor soccer stadium from Kacmarcik Enterprises that would be used by a new minor league team as well as Marquette University’s soccer and lacrosse teams. A hotel and concert venue are also proposed for the site immediately west of the stadium.

But the only project being constructed to date at the Iron District is Bear’s 99-unit Michigan Streets Commons apartment building. Financed with low-income housing tax credits, that building is being developed at the far western end of the site, closest to the Marquette Interchange. The site is fenced off and construction trailers indicate an imminent ramp-up of work.

The city, through a developer-financed tax incremental financing district, is providing Bear with a $1.8 million subsidy for the apartments.


Apartment Building Rendering and Site Plan

Iron District Renderings

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

2 thoughts on “Friday Photos: Downtown Ramada Being Deconstructed, Recycled”

  1. sheistolerable says:

    So Marquette lost $1.6 million on the Ramada? That seems worth a story in and of itself.

  2. Polaris says:

    It’s exciting to imagine what the future may hold for this area. If the soccer/lacrosse stadium is built, it puts this site between the stadium and new Milwaukee Tool offices.

    To the north is the old Clark Oil Building and Greyhound Bus Terminal that Josh Jeffers bought in 2017. Here’s hoping that these other developments kickstart whatever plans he might have.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us