Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

City Seeks Buyer For Northside Tavern

Plus: Plumbing equipment company expanding in Menomonee Valley. And a recap of week's real estate news.

By - Aug 13th, 2023 04:53 pm
2617-2623 W. Atkinson Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

2617-2623 W. Atkinson Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The City of Milwaukee is looking for a developer with a vision to acquire and renovate a two-story commercial building on a northside commercial corridor.

The 5,401-square-foot building, 2617-2623 W. Atkinson Ave., includes a first-floor commercial space with three apartments above.

Built in 1928, the first floor has been home to a long list of taverns, including Bungalow Inn, Tory’s and Glady’s Bar, Hamilton’s Tavern, Mel & Mimi’s Tavern, Stein Bar and Cafe, Mueller’s Tavern, Barry’s In, Charley’s Place (where the owner murdered a customer outside in 1982) and The Enterprise. City permit records indicate a secondary commercial space has also housed a jeweler, delicatessen, barbershop, beauty salon and heating supply company. It was home to America’s Black Holocaust Museum for one year before the organization relocated to W. North Avenue.

The city acquired the building in 2019 through property tax foreclosure. The property was owned for several decades by Horace Ransby, who operated his real estate firm HJR Investors from the first floor. City assessment records indicate Ransby transferred the property to his son Timothy in 2017. Horace passed away in 2019 at the age of 86.

A request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Department of City Development (DCD) asks for a minimum bid of $45,000 for the property.

“Office, retail, service business, recording or art or dance studio, restaurant or café without drive through, catering, or photography/wedding planning business, etc,” are suggested new uses from DCD. Prohibited uses include “parking lot, pawn shop, cash for gold business, tobacco or e-cigarette retailer, gun shop, liquor store, payday or auto-title loan store, medical service facility, child daycare or other uses prohibited by zoning.” Should someone wish to demolish the structure and start over, the lot is 4,630 square feet. It sits between a house and a parking lot for Power House of Deliverance Church of the Apostlic Faith, Inc, which faces N. 27th Street. Hot Spot Supermarket is located on the northern edge of the block, where W. Atkinson Avenue and N. 27th Street meet.

Armchair architects might notice the facade is out off keeping with 1920s-style buildings. Large storefront windows typical of the period are missing, with small windows in a brick facade found at street level. DCD is asking the future owner to “restore building and storefront with clear glazing along street frontage,” though it’s unclear if that means a complete overhaul or simply removing the non-matching masonry that covers two of the windows. A list of permits from DCD doesn’t provide definitive proof of when the building was reclad, but the early 1970s appears to be the right window.

The property is located on the edge of the Garden Homes neighborhood, which was built as a city-sponsored housing cooperative for World War I veterans and other working-class families in the 1920s. Originally for whites only, it became a predominantly Black middle-class neighborhood in the heyday of then-nearby manufacturer A.O. Smith. But that company’s closure triggered a spiral of disinvestment in the neighborhood. Now, a large affordable housing effort is underway to renovate many of the historically-protected homes. Increasing signs of life, and new jobs, have also been seen at what is now known as the Century City Business Park.

Interested bidders can tour the property, but bring a flashlight says the RFP. Open houses are being held Aug. 16, 18, 23 and 25. Responses are due Sept. 27.

Valley Company Is Expanding

Plumbing and hydronic heating component manufacturer Caleffi North America is expanding its Menomonee Valley plant. The company is poised to add 34,166 square feet of space to its 43,432-square-foot facility at 3883 W. Milwaukee Rd.

The factory and office complex was the first in the United States for the Italian parent company, Caleffi S.p.A. It opened the facility, one of several to be built in a cluster just east of American Family Field, in 2007. The Milwaukee plant serves as the North American headquarters for the company, which has several facilities in Italy. There are approximately 50 employees in Milwaukee.

Bence Build, also located in the Menomonee Valley, is listed as the designer of the expansion on a permit request.

News of the expansion was first reported by Ashley Smart.

Weekly Recap

Associated Closing Southside Branch, Five Others

The largest Wisconsin-based bank is shuttering six of its approximately 200 branches.

Associated Bank will close five branches in Wisconsin and one in Chicago. The only city of Milwaukee closure is a stand-alone branch at 3847 S. Howell Ave. in the city’s Tippecanoe neighborhood. Customers are advised to use a branch in St. Francis at 3719 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

“The consolidations align with an industry-wide trend, which includes consumers’ adaption to digital banking, a smaller branch footprint and lower frequency of walk-in traffic,” said a company spokesperson. “Associated will work with impacted colleagues to find a new role within the company, where positions are available.”

The branches will be closed starting Nov. 17.

Read the full article

GOP Senators Block Building Code Update Supporters Say Saves Energy, Improves Safety

Voting along party lines, members of a state Senate committee rejected an update to Wisconsin’s commercial building codes Thursday by a vote of 3-2. Supporters said the new codes would improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions that contribute to global warming.

The proposal would bring Wisconsin’s standards up to date with the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code. Wisconsin’s last code update was based on standards set in 2015, according to testimony at a public hearing in July.

The vote in the Senate Housing, Rural Issues and Forestry Committee was taken by paper ballot Thursday without an in-person debate. The motion that Republicans on the committee wrote to block the code change stated that the state hadn’t adequately analyzed the cost to business or local governments of implementing and complying with the revisions.

At a July 18 hearing held jointly with the Assembly Housing and Real Estate Committee, witnesses for the state Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) and for the state Commercial Building Code Council said the update would improve building safety as well as help reduce energy costs.

Read the full article

Four Milwaukee Buildings Headed To Auction Block

Four Milwaukee properties will soon be sold to the highest bidder in separate auctions. But each has taken a wildly different path to get to this point.

The Iron Horse Hotel would be sold at auction to resolve foreclosure and bankruptcy cases that can ultimately be traced back to the pandemic. The effectively-vacant The Sentinel Building, an aging downtown office building, was subject to an aborted apartment conversion plan during the pandemic and a transfer in lieu of foreclosure. The former Perlick Corporation factory campus in the 30th Street Corridor was the site of two failed attempts to secure competitively-awarded tax credits to convert it to affordable housing. And a two-story office building in the Park Place business park sits approximately half full after being sold by its anchor tenant to an investment group in 2018.

Read the full article

Berrada Sues Milwaukee Tenants Union For Defamation

One of Milwaukee’s biggest landlords is suing a local group of housing and tenants rights activists for defamation. Youssef “Joe” Berrada, who runs companies that own an estimated 8,000 Milwaukee-area rental units, is seeking damages against the Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union (MATU), after its members protested and made social media posts following a fire at a Berrada property. The fire took the life of a child whose mother joined MATU in protesting the property’s conditions. Berrada is accusing MATU of spreading misinformation about the fire, thereby damaging the landlord’s reputation in the community.

The lawsuit revolves around efforts by the MATU to blast landlords for negligent maintenance of properties, which can cause electrical fires. Both MATU and Berrada’s property empire are located in Milwaukee. The lawsuit – in which MATU is described as a socialist or communist organization – was filed in the more conservative Ozaukee County where Berrada lives. The case stems from a late November 2022, fire at one of Berrada’s properties, on Milwaukee’s largely African American North Side. When firefighters arrived a woman, Stacy Watson, was screaming that her son was still inside. (The lawsuit states the child was age 6 “or younger.” The tenants’ union has stated that the boy was 4.)

Firefighters tackled the blaze and located the child in his bedroom. The boy was transported to a hospital, but did not survive exposure to the fire and smoke. An investigation of the fire noted that the cause was “undetermined due to being unable to identify the ignition sequence,” according to Milwaukee Fire Department records included in court documents for the lawsuit. Watson was interviewed by police, while the fire department analyzed the damaged areas from least to most burned.

“A plastic bowl on the kitchen/dining room wooden table showed burn marks and used cigarette butts,” the records noted, adding that the bowl had clearly been used as an ashtray. Yet, it was the child’s bedroom which was the most damaged, and was the room where the fire is believed to have originated. “Standing in the doorway to this room, char and blistering was noted to the door trim on the top and sides showing fire going outwards into the hallway,” the firefighters’ report continues. “The bedroom door was closed at the time of the fire, being opened by E-16’s crew during the search and firefight.”

Read the full article

Downtown Hotel Taken Over By Lender

The 138-room Hampton Inn and Suites, 176 W. Wisconsin Ave., is under new ownership.

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue‘s real estate transfer system says the property was conveyed to lender EB Group LLC, a subsidiary of Illinois-based Evergreen Bank Group, in lieu of foreclosure on July 28.

The hotel closed in April with a contradictory sign posted on its doors: “this hotel is permanently closed for renovations.” No permit requests were filed with the city.

Virginia-based Crossways Capital owned the property. Department of Revenue‘s delinquent taxpayer database lists Crossways’ legal entity, Wisconsin Ave Partners LLC, as owing $388,143.67 in unpaid withholding, sales and expo taxes.

Read the full article

Proposed East Side Tower On Hold

A proposal to develop a 25-story apartment tower and relocate a historic mansion is in a holding pattern until at least 2024.

Developer Christopher Houden, Jr. cited rising interest rates and a new sales tax as reasons his firm, Willow Partners, will wait until at least 2024 to start construction on 1550, named for its address on N. Prospect Avenue.

“While sales tax is part of the issue, the primary reason I tabled the deal is due to the acceleration in increasing interest rates,” said Houden in a statement to Urban Milwaukee. “We remain excited about the opportunities on this site and will continue to evaluate the opportunity to move forward as conditions change. We fully support the sales tax increase, but it is a scenario we have to address. We plan to wait until the end of 2023 and monitor all contributors to cost.”

The building is to compete with the wave of other high-rise, amenity-rich luxury apartment towers that have been developed following 7Seventy7 proving the market in 2018. Ascent, the world’s tallest mass timber building, was completed in 2022. Two more buildings, 333 N. Water St. and The Couture, will welcome their first residents next year.

Read the full article

A Look At Milwaukee Home Sales In Second Quarter of 2023

The number of houses sold in Milwaukee fell by 32% during the second quarter of 2023, compared to the same period last year. While prices continued to rise, they did so more slowly than the inflation rate.

In “real,” inflation-adjusted dollars, the median sale price was about $10,000 below the peak in 2021, albeit still well above pre-pandemic prices.

My analysis of preliminary state transaction records shows about 1,950 “arm’s length” home sales during April, May and June of 2023. That is roughly 900 fewer than either of the past two years and close to the total sold in the second quarter of 2020, when much of the economy was still frozen by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In my last housing market report, I described first-quarter home sales as falling to “pre-pandemic levels.” Now, it’s fair to say that the housing market is even cooler than that. Sales were down about 6% through the first three months of 2023 compared to 2019. That downward trend has continued, and sales in the second quarter of 2023 were fully 18% lower than in 2019.

Read the full article

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