The plans announced Wednesday by the Milwaukee Bucks for a 230-room luxury boutique hotel to be built just north of Fiserv Forum is the first of two hotels the Bucks hope to attract to the team's Deer District development area around the arena.
The Bucks have partnered with Madison-based hotel developer North Central Group to build and operate the first hotel under Marriott International’s Autograph Collection. It will house one to three restaurants, including a rooftop terrace and meeting spaces with an elevated outdoor balcony and public plaza. The Autograph Collection's independently owned hotels are known for their upscale accommodations and designs, often customized for the surrounding locale. "Uniquely Milwaukee and exactly Deer District" is howJeff Lenz, president and chief development officer at North Central Group described the hotel planned near Fiserv Forum.
The project is slated to break ground next fall at the corner of Juneau and Vel R. Phillips avenues, on a 2.4-acre site the Bucks have dubbed 'Block 6.' It will join a strip of new development planned on the land north of Fiserv Forum, which is where the Bucks are currently focusing their attention as they continue building out the 30-acre Deer District, says Michael Belot, senior vice president of Bucks Ventures and Development.
The area north of the arena is the development priority for the team now, ahead of the vacant land south of the arena where the Bradley Center used to be. The team is also hoping to attract a hotel to the former Bradley Center site, in addition to the hotel planned north of Fiserv Forum.
"(The land north of Fiserv Forum) is a little bit more visible right off (West McKinley Avenue)," Belot said. "That's where we had tremendous interest."
Belot said there was interest for both hotels spec'd for the Deer District, but the one planned on the northern site has fewer rooms and higher visibility. Plans for residential and office tower developments along that block are next on the development priority list.
That leaves the former Bradley Center site, just to the south of Fiserv Forum, for the district's second hotel development. That lot is divided into two plots that are 2.89 acres and 2.68 acres.
The Bucks selected NCG out of more than 10 responses to an RFP. That was followed by over a year and a half of discussions, which continued in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to finalize the deal.
"When we narrowed it down what was really important to us was NCG has Wisconsin roots... and then also, it was important to have a great partner, somebody that we felt very comfortable with because you're in this for the long hall," said Belot.
NCG's downtown Milwaukee hotel will be its third Milwaukee-area property, joining the new Hilton Garden Inn in Brookfield and its management of the adjacent Brookfield Conference Center. All told, NCG operates more than 25 hotels under the Hilton and Marriott franchise brands throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona.
Bucks president Peter Feigin said the pandemic hasn't blurred the organization's vision of further developing the arena district and attracting visitors and residents to area. It was critical to find a development partner with similar ambitions.
"That's how we ended up with NCG-- we need partners who think about two years from now, three years from now and how we'll recover and what this is going to be like," said Feigin.
The Marriott Autograph hotel near Fiserv Forum is scheduled to open by mid-2023. By then, the hope for NCG is the hospitality industry will be on the rebound and current trying times will be in the rearview.
"Our key right now is investing in the future and in places like this that have multiple demand generating components-- corporate component, leisure component, entertainment component, dining services immediately adjacent," said Lenz. "We believe we have that here with this location."
Hotel site north of Fiserv Forum:Former Bradley Center site: