Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Parks’ Former Barn Youth Hostel Could Be Redeveloped

Seeking developer for barn and residential building on site located on Root River Parkway.

By - Mar 15th, 2023 10:50 am

Barn at the intersection of W. Loomis Rd. and Root River Parkway which formerly served as a youth hostel. Photo by Milwaukee County Parks.

Milwaukee County Parks is looking for developers that can redevelop, and reactivate a 1.4-acre site in the Root River Parkway that was once home to the International Youth Hostel.

The 5,180-square-foot barn is still standing, as is a 1,650-square-foot residential building, and parks is looking for someone that can redevelop the site, which has stood vacant for years, as a recreational asset for the community. It sits near the intersection of W. Loomis Rd. and S. Root River Parkway in Greendale.

The department is not contemplating selling the land or the buildings, which it could not do without approval from the Milwaukee County Board. Instead, it wants a developer interested in a partnership with parks, or a lease, that will restore the buildings and bring new uses to the property.

The county has found success in leasing buildings that need maintenance and investment in recent years. The Urban Ecology Center leases and maintains its building in Riverside Park, 1500 Park Pl., as well as its branch in Washington Park, 1859 N. 40th St. And The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee is planning a multi-million investment in Sherman Park, where it leases a building for the Mary Ryan Boys & Girls Club.

Both buildings on the site in Greendale were built more than a century ago and used for farming and homesteading, according to the parks department.

The site sits on the Root River Parkway, which includes the section of the Oak Leaf Trail known as the Root River Line that is popular with bicyclists. And the youth hostel, known colloquially as the Red Barn Hostel, was used as a place to stay for riders during the day-long tour of the county trail system known as the Milwaukee 64 in the mid-20th century, according to Preserve Our Parks, a non-profit advocacy group for the parks system.

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