A unique setting – Renaissance Place

When Janet Sperstad was planning an invitation-only event in Milwaukee for Paul Mitchell hair products, she knew she needed a special place to play host. That special place ended up being the 1451 Renaissance Place, a landmark East Side Milwaukee facility that was originally built as a church just after the turn of the century.
Renaissance Place, at 1451 N. Farwell Ave., is one of the more unique alternative meeting sites in the area. While it was built as a church, the Christian Scientists who worshipped in it refrained from emblazing religious icons in its architecture.
The congregation remains next door, in an adjacent facility built for church school purposes.
Twelve years ago, the main church structure, which held 1,100 people in its seats, was sold to the Taxman family of Milwaukee who now operates it as a meeting and events business. It’s been restored to highlight its classic architecture, including an impressive arched ceiling which gives a sense of spaciousness even when the ballroom is full.
“Its sets the tone for a special meeting or event,” says Andrea Taxman, executive director of the facility.
Today, Renaissance Place can accommodate up to 500 people for sit-down events or up to 600 for cocktail parties. The events it hosts run the gamut – from fancy dinners and cocktail parties to trade shows to professional certification testing.
The elegance is what attracted Sperstad, a certified meeting planner who works for the Monsanto company at its Madison offices. “It was an exclusive event. So the Renaissance Place is exactly what I was looking for,” she says.
While facilities such as Renaissance Place may have an elegance to them, meetings and events as such places don’t necessarily have to cost more than activities held at more traditional facilities, such as hotel halls, Taxman says. “You can work with your own caterer and other service providers to make it affordable. We offer the flexibility to do that.”
In contrast, for a hotel to host an event, for example, it would retain rights to provide food and might also be interested in having a certain number of rooms rented by event attendees.
Not every event needs to be held at an alternative facility such as Renaissance Place. But there are definite benefits to such places for certain events, Sperstad says.
“The benefits if looking at alternative meeting sites is that they can create a different atmosphere, a different energy for your event,” she says. “It tells the attendees that ‘this is something special’ and that they are, too. It can thus get people more excited about the event, make it more fun, and thus make it more memorable.”
Public parks and museums, facilities such as the Zoofari Conference Center at the Milwaukee County Zoo, and bed-and-breakfasts all offer meeting-place alternatives.
July 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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