Commentary: Milwaukee’s hottest spot

Huge crowd at the Beer Garden near Fiserv Forum during the NBA playoffs. Credit: Milwaukee Bucks

Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:33 pm

American Family Insurance Co.’s decision to locate its new Milwaukee office in the former Mandel Graphic Solutions building demonstrates the area around Fiserv Forum is the hottest spot in the region.

American Family plans to have 400 employees in the five-story, 110-year-old building located on North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, just over a block north of the arena.

The building is located just outside of the Deer District, a 30-acre development area controlled by the Milwaukee Bucks and anchored by Fiserv Forum.

The arena has been a big success since its opening last year. Huge crowds have come to see the Bucks, one of the best teams in the NBA, Marquette games and an impressive list of concerts and other events. Led by reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks appear poised for another deep playoff run, so the Deer District should be hopping again all winter and spring.

Most of the Deer District is still undeveloped land, but what the Bucks have developed so far includes the team’s training facility, an apartment building and the entertainment block with Good City Brewing, Punch Bowl Social, The MECCA Sports Bar and Grill, Drink Wisconsinbly and the Beer Garden. The entertainment block has become a lively destination, even on non-game days.

The Bucks have also hosted numerous events on the plaza in front of the arena, including the popular Christkindlmarket.

About a block west of the arena, the redevelopment of the former Pabst brewery complex into the mixed-use Brewery District is virtually complete. Badger Mutual Insurance announced recently that it will move its headquarters, and 90 employees, from the south side to The 42 building at the Brewery District.

One block south of the arena, J. Jeffers & Co. plans to transform the Journal Sentinel complex into a mixed-use development including 203 units of affordable, student and workforce residential housing.

One block north of the arena, redevelopment plans for the former National Ace Hardware building include a downtown Harley-Davidson dealership.

So, what’s next? The Bucks have big plans to develop the two vacant blocks south of Fiserv Forum (the former Bradley Center site) and two vacant blocks north and northeast of the arena. The Bucks are marketing land north of the arena for office development. Brookfield-based Fiserv is considering a new location for its headquarters and has already sponsored the name of the arena. Maybe the company will move its office next door.

The Bucks have also vetted hotel development proposals for sites north and south of the arena.

Construction at the vacant Deer District sites will have to wait until after the 2020 Democratic National Convention, to be held at Fiserv Forum, which will bring even more attention to the arena and the surrounding area.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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