Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

City Tours Company Plans Headquarters in Walker’s Point

Plus: A recap of the week's real estate news.

By - May 21st, 2023 05:30 pm
215 W. Bruce St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

215 W. Bruce St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

An unassuming building near S. 2nd St. and W. Bruce St. in Walker’s Point will soon play an important role in Milwaukee’s tourism industry.

City Tours MKE, which operates a fleet of distinctive five-passenger electric vehicles and two 15-passenger buses, intends to repurpose the former automotive garage at 215 W. Bruce St. into an event venue and operational hub.

The company, led by Meghan Miles, secured approval earlier this month from the Board of Zoning Appeals (BOZA) to occupy the 2,617-square-foot building. It will use the building as a base for its tours, which highlight the city’s history, food and beer. Many of its tours, including its signature Discover Iconic Milwaukee tour, already pass near the building.

City Tours has been using Pilot Project Brewing in The Brewery District as a hub. But having a permanent home and controlled space will allow the company to expand its offerings, including selling food and beverages.

The permanent home will also increase the visibility of the business. The building is across the street from Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company’s Walker’s Point cafe and just off the restaurant-and-bar-laden S. 2nd Street.

A BOZA filing says the company expects to invest $150,000 in improving the property, originally built in 1890. Miles’ company, Station 1846 LLC, is working with Galbraith Carnahan Architects on the project, according to city permit records.

Trained as a cosmetologist and dental hygienist, Miles began offering ghost tours in 2013 and added the signature electric vehicles to her fleet in 2018. She also reports working as an event planner and operating rental properties used as Airbnb short-term rentals.

A limited liability company affiliated with Miles’ parents purchased the property for $397,000 in March. The property had been long owned by the late James Schaefer, who operated Schaefer Auto Services.


Weekly Recap

Construction Underway On Greenest Library in Milwaukee

Milwaukee is not only getting a modern library as part of the $38.8 million redevelopment project on N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., but it’s also getting a very environmentally friendly library and a substantial amount of new housing.

“The greenest library in Milwaukee” is how Milwaukee Public Library (MPL) director Joan Johnson described it at a groundbreaking ceremony Friday afternoon. The structure will include solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling as well as stormwater management features.

The new library will replace the Martin Luther King Library branch, 310 W. Locust St., which opened in 1971 and was given a “modest” renovation in 1997. “Now it’s time for a 21st century library for this community,” said Johnson. Final design work for the interior is still ongoing, but plans call for the traditional stacks of books as well as a movable wall to create a large meeting room, small rooms for things like online job applications and interviews and a host of amenities to make the space a community hub. A makerspace geared at teenagers could be included.

The city is replicating its lauded public-private partnership model to build the replacement. A partnership of Emem Group and General Capital Group will develop a 93-unit affordable apartment complex that includes a 17,000-square-foot library on the first floor. Since 2011, MPL has used the model to develop the Villard Square, East, Mitchell and Good Hope libraries. The new libraries replace one-story structures with aging mechanical systems and less flexible meeting space and that require more staffing.

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Milwaukee County’s Four Different Population Trajectories

The recent overall trends in Milwaukee County’s population are well known, but these headline figures obscure enormous variations between individual neighborhoods and suburbs.

Since 2000, the city’s population has declined a bit while the suburbs have, collectively, grown slightly. But within the city, neighborhood trajectories dramatically diverge, and population growth is really only limited to a specific set of pro-growth suburbs.

The graphic below categorizes census tracts into one of four demographic trajectories. “Building boom” neighborhoods (shown in dark blue) are building new housing and consequently increasing the number of households. In the city, this has mainly occurred in Greater Downtown (stretching from the north end of Bay View through the Lower East Side) as well as a cluster of subdivision-style housing developments on the Far Northwest Side. All told, these areas have added 18,000 more residents since 2000, a 23% growth rate.

Glendale, Franklin, Oak Creek, Greenfield, and parts of St. Francis, Cudahy, and Wauwatosa have also grown thanks to new construction over the last 20 years. In total, the suburbs have added 23,000 residents in building boom tracts, a growth rate of 19%.

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Inside The Trade Hotel

Milwaukee’s newest hotel will welcome its first guests Thursday night.

The Trade, a 207-room, full-service hotel, is officially open in the Deer District neighborhood at the north end of Downtown.

“Tonight, when guests arrive, they are going to experience something that is truly Milwaukee,” said Andy Inman, vice president of hotel owner and operator North Central Group (NCG), during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday morning.

Part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, the four-star hotel is named for the gritty people and industries that built Milwaukee said Inman. Its design features a substantial amount of metal and masonry, as well as industrial imagery throughout. A large staircase in the lobby is designed to look like the Hoan Bridge and Cream City-brick accent walls are included near the elevators on every floor.

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Pabst Theater Lights Up New Sign

As of today you won’t have any trouble finding the Pabst Theater.

The historic theater’s new sign, 27 feet tall and seven feet wide, was lit up for the first time Wednesday afternoon.

A triple-wide track of lights “chase” around the sign’s perimeter, while the large letters spell out PABST.

Lisa Cudahy, the widowed wife of philanthropist Michael Cudahy, called the sign the “finishing touch” on the building’s restoration. Cudahy created a nonprofit that purchased the building, 144 E. Wells St., from the city for $1 in 2000.

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MLK Library Closes, Construction Starts On Replacement

The May 6 closure of the Martin Luther King Library branch was a cause for celebration for many city leaders and neighborhood residents.

A steady stream of visitors, including area Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs and Milwaukee Public Library director Joan Johnson, took one final look inside a facility they had visited countless times before.

The library, 310 W. Locust St., opened in 1971 and is part of a generation of one-story libraries whose mechanical systems are failing and whose designs can’t accommodate the varied uses of modern libraries. Since 2016, the city has publicly sought a mixed-use replacement for the King Library, but a prior developer failed to secure financing after repeated tries

Now, things are moving forward. Emem Group and General Capital Group closed on the financing of a $38.8 million, 93-apartment redevelopment on April 14.

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Habitat Building 9 Homes On 1 City Block

Residents of one Harambee block will need to grow accustomed to the sound of hammers and saws this summer, but once the dust settles they’ll have a host of new neighbors.

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity is working to build nine new houses on the 3000 block of N. 6th St. It’s part of the 80 homes the organization announced in 2021 it plans to build in the near northside neighborhood.

Those keeping a close eye on the action might have noticed some unusual volunteers last week: six mascots and one all-star pitcher.

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff was joined by Bernie Brewer and the five Racing Sausages last week to work on one house that first-time homebuyer and mother Hsa Yu will own upon completion.

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50 New Homes For Early-Childhood Educators

A new partnership aims to build 50 affordable, owner-occupied homes for early-childhood educators that will help the future owners build wealth, while chipping away at the minority homeownership gap, improving neighborhoods and encouraging more workers to pursue a career in child care.

The homes, 1,000-square-foot, single-story structures, would be built on vacant lots near five early childhood centers. Each house would have three bedrooms, one full bathroom and a full basement.

LISC Milwaukee and the Community Development Alliance (CDA) are reviewing five responses to an April request for proposals (RFP). CDA chief alliance executive Teig Whaley-Smith told Urban Milwaukee that the winners are expected to be announced in early June.

The houses would be built near the facilities of five partner organizations: Next Door Foundation (2545 N. 29th St.), Children’s Outing Association Goldin Center (2320 W. Burleigh St.), Malaika Early Learning Center (125 W. Auer Ave.), United Community Center Ricardo Diaz Early Learning Academy (2130 W. Becher St.) and United Methodist Children’s Services Growing Tree Children’s Center (3940 W. Lisbon Ave.). The five organizations’ client base, according to the RFP, is 80% families of color. Each of the centers is located in a low-income neighborhood.

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Two Competing Apartment Buildings Proposed For King Drive

The Bronzeville Advisory Committee and Department of City Development (DCD) are weighing two competing options for redeveloping a 1.1-acre, city-owned site at the intersection of N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and W. Burleigh St.

Two minority-led development teams intend to construct approximately 65 apartments with a substantial amount of community-focused first-floor commercial space.

A proposal from KG Development would stand four stories tall and cost approximately $18.3 million. A proposal by Northernstar Companies would reach five stories and cost approximately $20.9 million to develop.

But the two firms, and their lengthy lists of partners, will have to wait until at least June 5 to determine who will win. After spending approximately an hour hearing pitches and then debating the measure in closed session, the advisory committee and area Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs held off on making a formal recommendation Monday morning.

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