CRE Spotlight: Momentum builds slowly for Milwaukee’s RiverWalk

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:39 pm

When the Milwaukee RiverWalk was first built during the 1990s, then Mayor John Norquist envisioned that it would attract development and help revitalize the downtown. The RiverWalk has helped attract new condominium developments along the river, but so far, only a handful of bars and restaurants have opened along the walkway and, other than Borders at 101 W. Wisconsin Ave., no stores.

Some parts of the RiverWalk have sizeable gaps between drinking and dining establishments. A lot more development must occur for the RiverWalk to be lined from end to end with places to eat, drink and shop.

However, there is progress along the RiverWalk. A new cocktail lounge is planned to open on Dec. 1. Jerome Walsh and Gregory Helding plan to open the cocktail lounge, to be called Stir, at 112 W. Wisconsin Ave.

The 1,800-square-foot space is located across the river from John Hawks Pub and is located in the Empire Building, which is owned by Towne Realty Inc. The space has been vacant since November of 2004 and was formerly occupied by Volt Information Sciences Inc., a tech staffing firm.

Stir will have an upscale atmosphere with affordable prices, providing a place for people to go on dates and a place for downtown residents and tourists to hang out, Walsh said. It will specialize in cocktails, martinis, wine and deserts.

“A lot of people in New York are now going out for desert, as opposed to a full meal,” Walsh said. “We want to take advantage of that trend.”

In addition, Stir will open a two-tiered patio along the RiverWalk in the spring.

In early 2007, Joe and Angie Sorge, the owners of Swig, 1227 N. Water St., Milwaukee, plan to open a new restaurant called Water Buffalo along the RiverWalk at 249 N. Water St., just southwest of the corner of Water and Buffalo streets in the Historic Third Ward. The two-level restaurant will occupy about 4,800 square feet of space.

The Loch family, which owns Ricardo’s, a pizzeria at 5627 Broad St., Greendale, plans to open Ricardo’s Riverfront Pizzeria Bar & Grill at 515 E. Erie St., in November in the Harbor Front Condominium development along the RiverWalk.

Other establishments that have come to the RiverWalk recently, or are coming soon, include:

•  Yaffa, a restaurant serving Spanish, Moroccan and Middle Eastern food, which opened last year at 106 W. Wells St.

•  Buckhead Saloon opened last year at 1044 N. Old World Third St., in the 8,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by Bar Milwaukee.

•  Hans Weissgerber III opened Rip Tide Seafood Bar and Grill along the RiverWalk in the Historic Third Ward at 649 E. Erie St.

•  Next year, Red Star Tavern, an upscale bar and restaurant chain owned by Glenview, Ill.-based Restaurants America, plans to open its first Wisconsin location in the River Renaissance development, which is being built southeast of Water and Erie streets, along the north side of the Milwaukee River, in the Third Ward. Red Star Tavern will occupy 7,000 square feet of space in the building and an outdoor riverfront patio with seating for 100.

•  First Place on the River, the 12-story, $45 million condominium building which is being developed at 106 W. Seeboth St. by Waukesha-based KeyBridge Development Group, will have 20,000 square feet of commercial space, which will include a two-story, 2,300-square-foot coffee shop, wine bar and dessert bar along the RiverWalk. The building, which will be complete next year, could also have a restaurant and a small, neighborhood grocery store.

Other restaurants along the RiverWalk include: Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, 740 N. Plankinton Ave.; John Hawks Pub, 100 E. Wisconsin Ave.; Milwaukee Ale House, 233 N. Water St.; Third Street Pier, 1110 N. Old World Third St.; RiverWalk Bistro, 223 N. Water St.; Soups On, 221 N. Water St.; and M Cafe Express Deli in the Chase building at 111 E. Wisconsin Ave.

Benihana, 850 N. Plankinton Ave., is located along the river, but its property is not connected to the RiverWalk.

The Third Street Pier, which is owned by Weissgerber, will be renovated and transformed into an upscale riverfront banquet hall for corporate functions next year. Weissgerber plans to downsize the restaurant by 2,200 square feet by eliminating its 200-seat banquet room on the second floor. The remaining space will be reconfigured, converting the dining room into a 300-seat riverfront banquet room that also will be dividable into two smaller spaces. The Third Street Pier’s current bar area will be transformed into a 75-seat upscale casual restaurant and bar to be named Dockside.

Some property owners along the RiverWalk are still trying to attract new tenants.

For example, the former Tula’s location, 117 E. Wells St., has been vacant since the restaurant closed in late 2004. It is owned by Taxman Investment Co. and is being marketed by CB Richard Ellis.

“We are in lease negotiations with a potential (tenant, a) local restaurateur,” said Sandy Golden, CB Richard Ellis senior vice president. “Really, that’s about all I can tell you. Should that deal be finalized, we’re looking for the tenant to open late this year, or the beginning of next.”

Ethanol plant planned in Racine County

Bob Kordus, the owner of Asphalt Contractors in Union Grove, and a group of investors plan to build an ethanol plant on a 100-acre site north of Highway 11 and about half a mile west of the Village of Union Grove. About 40 to 50 people would work at the plant. The project has been approved by Town of Dover officials. However, it is opposed by Union Grove village officials. The Racine County Board will make the final decision about whether or not the ethanol plant will be approved.


Ted Larsen, owner of Waukesha-based Church & Chapel Funeral Services, plans to build an 11,300-square-foot funeral home and a 10,000-square-foot, two-story office building on a three-acre property at 4110 W. Layton Ave. Two single family homes on the site would be demolished, if the project is approved by city officials. Larsen previously proposed a funeral home twice as big with a crematory and an ambulance service, first for a site at 5430 W. Layton Ave. and then at 4110 W. Layton Ave. City officials rejected the project for both sites. Bilt-Rite Furniture built a new store on the site at 5430 W. Layton Ave. Church & Chapel currently has seven locations, three in Milwaukee and one in Brookfield, West Allis, Waukesha and Cudahy.

Catherine Styza plans to build a two-story, 11,000-square-foot commercial building on a half-acre lot at 4805 S. 74th St. A single family home on the property would be demolished. Styza plans to attract retail tenants to the 5,500-square-foot first floor and office tenants to the 5,500-square-foot second floor.

David Kyhn plans to build a three-story 6,000-square-foot office building at 7406 Layton Ave. He wants to demolish the single family home on the property that is used for office space by his company, Home Instead Senior Care, and Edward Jones, and replace it with the new building.


Winona, Minn.-based Fastenal Co. plans to move its store at 821 W. College Ave., Waukesha, to a new 15,000-square-foot building that will be constructed on a vacant 1.5-acre lot at the northeast corner of Sunset Drive and Chapman Drive in the Spring City Commerce Center. Fastenal, the largest fastener distributor in the nation., needed a larger location for its Waukesha store. The company owns and operates more than 1,800 stores in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Europe, and China. The stores sell the company’s fasteners and other products.


Main Dish Kitchen plans to open a 3,500-square-foot store at 1320 Pabst Farms Circle, in the Pabst Farms development. Main Dish Kitchen has 14 locations, but only one in Wisconsin, which is in Sheboygan. Customers go to Main Dish Kitchen to make six or 12 meals for their families. After preparing the meals, they take them home and cook them later.

In addition, Huntington Learning Center plans to open a location in a 2,600-square-foot space in the Market Place at Pabst Farms. Oradell, N.J.-based Hunting Learning Center provides tutoring for K-12 grade students and has other locations in Brookfield, Glendale, Greenfield and Pleasant Prairie.

The 109,000-square-foot Market Place portion of the Pabst Farms development is targeted for retailers serving the everyday needs of area residents and includes a Pick ‘n Save grocery store. So far, 83,000 square feet of space in the Market Place has been leased to tenants, leaving 26,000 square feet, plus a pad for an 8,000-square-foot restaurant, available.

“We are focused on the best in class (tenants),” said Jake Griswold, investment manager for Pabst Farms Development. “We want to make sure we have the right tenant mix.” Griswold said more retailers have expressed interest in Pabst Farms since June when General Growth Properties Inc. announced plans to build a 1 million-square-foot regional shopping center at Pabst Farms and since August when Aurora Health Care and the City of Oconomowoc settled their dispute, allowing Aurora to proceed with building a new hospital in Pabst Farms, south of I-94 in the Town of Summit.


Brookfield-based Gloria Kay Uniform Inc. recently opened a new store at 3142 N. Mayfair Road, Wauwatosa. The company said its office, warehouse and shipping facility will remain at the headquarters at 4040 N. 128th St., Brookfield. The new store specializes in uniforms and scrubs for health care professionals, but also sells other work uniforms. “Our new retail store is designed to service our health care customers better with a convenient location and extensive inventory of brand new products,” said Michael Weinshel, senior vice president and general manager.


Evanston, Ill.-based LouisClark Ltd. recently opened an office and service center at 424 Harvard Ave. in Fontana. LouisClark provides high end technology and entertainment systems for upscale homes. “We encountered a real need for home technology support services in southeastern Wisconsin,” said LouisClark chief executive officer Brian Post. “Many homeowners aren’t sure whom to call when something in their existing system goes wrong. We’ll be able to help homeowners with their technology needs and deliver a high level of customer service.”


Waukesha-based TDI Associates Inc. plans to build a one-story, 11,200-square-foot multi-tenant retail building and a two-story, 14,080-square-foot office building on a vacant two acre site at 615-17 Ryan St.

New Berlin

Michele High, owner of the Mustang Shelly’s Roadhouse tavern at 18540 W. National Ave., plans to convert a single family home at 18560 W. National Ave., located next to the bar, into a drive-through and take-out restaurant called Mustang Pizza.


Boerke Company

EMSystem leased 8,111 square feet of office space at 135 S. 84th St., Suite 150, Milwaukee, from Geneva-Honey Creek III LLC.

Money Tree FSI leased 4,500 square feet of office space at 1000 N. Water St., Milwaukee, from Beverly Hills Property LLC-Tony Palermo.

Dickman Company

Federal/Whalen Moving & Storage LLC leased 25,000 square feet of industrial space at 6701 W. Good Hope Road, Milwaukee, from Wilson Realty Company of Wisconsin Inc.

Inland Companies

Executive Center Consulting leased 3,472 square feet of office space at the West Allis Center, 1126 S. 70th St., West Allis.

The U.S. Military leased 900 square feet of office space at 700 W. Michigan St., Milwaukee.

H&R Block leased 1,200 square feet of office/retail space at Dove Plaza, 1034 Commerce St., Slinger.

Judson & Associates

Galadriel Jung leased 1,960 square feet of space at 5500 Clinton Ave., Milwaukee, from Starck Associates II LLC.

Key Tech Solutions Inc. leased 3,231 square feet of space at 10400 Innovation Point Dr., Brookfield, from Innovation Point LLC.

Manpower leased 3,526 square feet of space at 2831 N. Grandview Blvd., Waukesha, from
Highstone Management.

Morris Midwest LLC leased 11,546 square feet of space at 9300 Heather Ave., Milwaukee, from Gary Lukacek.

Nordstrom William Jeweler leased 1,375 square feet of space at N79 W14749 Appleton Ave., Menomonee Falls, from Vision Commercial Properties LLC.

Precision Concrete Cutting leased 2,900 square feet of space at N59 W14830 Bobolink Ave., Menomonee Falls, from Gerald R. Jonas.

Sparq Products Inc. leased 27,000 square feet of space at 1860 Executive Dr., Oconomowoc, from Bohrer Living Trust.


Dickman Company

520 Tech LLC purchased 6.4 acres at 520 Technology Way, Saukville, from P.M. Building Company Inc.

P.J. Storage LLC purchased 2.7 acres on Enterprise Drive in Delafield from Cushing Park Business Center LLC.

P.J. Storage LLC purchased 2.6 acres on Enterprise Drive in Delafield from Lincoln Contractors Supply Inc.

Equity Commercial Real Estate

Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership purchased the 31,000-square-foot building at 3841 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, from Advance Cleaning Products Inc. for $850,000.

Judson & Associates

House of Wisdom purchased the 2,425-square-foot building at 11615 W. Layton Ave., Greenfield, from New Apostolic Church.

SCI Investment Holdings purchased the 29,000-square-foot building at 540 Progress Dr., Hartland, from Olson Realty Group LLC.

Neal Schellinger purchased the 4,200-square-foot building at 1316 N. Grand Ave., Waukesha, from Mardor Ltd. Partnership.

Mutz Realty LLP purchased the 21,745-square-foot building at 400 Winfield Ct., Slinger, from Marine Bank.

New construction

Keller Inc. is building a 2,975-square-foot convenience store and car wash for B&H Oil LLC at 5979 S. Howell Ave., Milwaukee. The existing facility will be demolished.

Inland Construction, Milwaukee, was awarded the construction contract for Stadium Business Park III, a 50,530-square-foot industrial and office building at 3925 W. Mitchell St., Milwaukee. Inland also recently completed a 40,000-square-foot office space remodeling for Covenant Healthcare at 1126 S. 70th St., West Allis. Inland also recently completed the construction of Marshall Street Condos, a three-story, six-unit condominium building at 1691 Marshall St., Milwaukee. Inland has also been awarded the 3,277-square-foot tenant improvement for Glencastle Irish Dancers at West Allis Center, 1126 S. 70th St., West Allis.

Wahlgren-Schwenn, Menomonee Falls, designed and is building a 126,000-square-foot distribution center in the Franklin Business Park for Yellow Rose LLC.

Briohn Building Corp., Brookfield, recently completed the design and construction of a 2,074-square-foot retail tenant improvement for Garbs, a women’s clothing store in the Brookfield Towne Centre at 19115 W. Capitol Dr., Suite 102, Brookfield. Briohn also recently completed the design and construction of a 5,292-square-foot restaurant for North Star American Bistro in the Brookfield Towne Centre, and a 1,345-square-foot tenant improvement for MaggieMoo’s Ice Cream and Treatery in the Brookfield Marketplace at 15060 W. Greenfield Ave., Suite 100, Brookfield.

MEDC loans

Buckley’s Kiskeam Inn LLC, received a $280,000 MEDC loan and additional financing from Johnson Bank to purchase the building at 801-07 N. Cass St., to remodel the building and to purchase new equipment. Michael Buckley will operate a restaurant in the building’s first level.

East Wisconsin Avenue Owners Association LLC received a $500,000 MEDC loan to purchase and renovate the 19,272-square-foot building at 600-06 E. Wisconsin Ave. The building will be remodeled to provide space for ec-Connection LLC and Nelson & Schmidt Inc. Those two firms currently occupy 11,704 square feet of space on the 18th floor of the Chase Bank building at 111 E. Wisconsin Ave. They will occupy the top two floors and the basement in the building at 600-06 E. Wisconsin Ave.

Mortara Instrument Inc. received a $1.5 million MEDC loan and additional financing from Chase Bank. The company plans to use the loan to expand its 38,000-square-foot headquarters at 7865 N. 86th St. with a 26,000-square-foot addition. About 100 people work at the Milwaukee headquarters, and the company plans to add about 30 employees there in the next three to four years.

Pamper Me Please received an $80,000 MEDC loan and additional financing from North Milwaukee State Bank to purchase the building at 7484 W. Appleton Ave. and to expand the business to include nail techs, two hair stylists and a massage therapist.

Andrew Weiland is the managing editor of Small Business Times. Send news about commercial real estate to or by calling him at (414) 277-8181 ext. 120. News can also be sent to Andrew Weiland, Small Business Times, 1123 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202.

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