City could designate former White House tavern building as historic

Pending temporary and permanent designations could alter future building renovations

Historic White House Tavern

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:53 pm

Historic White House Tavern

The 128-year-old building that formerly housed the Historic White House tavern in Bay View could be designated as historic after Ald. Tony Zielinski filed historic designation applications earlier this week with the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission.

Zielinski, who represents Bay View, proposed temporary and permanent historic designations of the building, located at 2900 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Both proposals pend committee approval.

According to the City of Milwaukee website, a temporary designation would prevent demolition or irreversible changes to the property for up to 180 days or before a permanent designation can be made. With a permanent designation, any construction or exterior changes to the building requires review by the Historic Preservation Commission.

Franklin-based developer HCI Properties purchased the two-story, 3,666-square-foot building in December for $400,000 with the intent to open a restaurant in the building. In an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee in January, HCI co-owner Joe Grasch said any renovations to the building would preserve its historic structure and would not be made until a suitable restauranteur signed a lease for the space.

Zielinski said after HCI had purchased the property, he requested that the company contact him about their development intentions. He said when he did not receive communication from HCI and he later heard “rumors” that renovations on the building were underway, he made the proposals to take precautions.

“Its very rare for someone to buy an old property like that and not communicate with me about it,” Zielinski said. ” I was not going to take any chances. I proposed the designations so they couldn’t do anything to the historical foundation of the building.”

David Griffith, who co-owns HCI with Grasch, said the building’s interior has been cleaned, but there has been no significant work done to the building since his company purchased it.

Zielinski said he will meet with HCI in the upcoming weeks to discuss the company’s development plans and, he said, if he approves of the ideas, he will consider withdrawing the historical designation request.

The Milwaukee office of Toronto, Canada-based Colliers International, the firm managing the property, lists it as a “brand new restaurant space for lease” and displays a rendering of the building’s exterior with an outdoor patio addition.

Griffith said the rendering on Colliers’ listing is just an idea of what the building could look like, but it does not indicate any definite renovation plans. He said the rendering is a way to market the building to potential restaurant or pub owners looking to move into the space.

“We are more than happy and want to work with all the stakeholders in this project including Alderman Zielinski and the residents of Bay View,” Griffith said. “We respect the history of that property.”

Cory Sovine, senior vice president at Colliers|Wisconsin and the broker for the property owners, said he was not aware of Zielinski’s proposals, but plans to communicate with him to determine any next steps.

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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