Foxtown Brewing plans downtown Milwaukee development next to proposed dog park site

Foxtown Landing rendering. (Courtesy of Stephen Perry Smith Architects, Inc.)

Mequon-based Foxtown Brewing, an affiliate of Mequon-based dog food maker Fromm Nieman Brands, announced plans on Wednesday to develop a 28,000-square-foot, 3-story building in downtown Milwaukee that will include a restaurant, tap room and distillery, located northeast of St. Paul and Plankinton avenues along the Milwaukee River.

The long-vacant site — currently held by a private owner — is located adjacent to the proposed Downtown Dog Park site.

Called Foxtown Landing, the development will feature expansive pet-friendly outdoor spaces overlooking the river, a press release states, as well as a rooftop patio and balcony.

As boosters continue to push for the development of the dog park, leaders of the effort on Wednesday announced Fromm Family Pet Food as the title sponsor of the future off-leash dog park, which will be located on a long vacant site under the I-794 freeway between the Milwaukee River and Plankinton Avenue, just north of the Foxtown Landing site and south of Clybourn Street.

“Milwaukee is rich in history, as is the Fromm brand and our family. When we learned about the dog park project, we began exploring the larger opportunity to develop a true ‘dog district’ where people and their pets can gather along the river at the nexus of where the Historic Third Ward and downtown meet,” said Tom Nieman, president of Fromm Family Pet Food. “With dog ownership rapidly increasing in recent years in the greater downtown area, we see this as a natural fit for us and a game changer for the city of Milwaukee.”

The overall project would also be tied together by a nearly 400-foot segment of new public RiverWalk. The Foxtown Landing development and RiverWalk connections would be subject to Fromm acquiring the narrow, city-owned parcel.

The dog park plans, designed by Milwaukee-based GRAEF, include separately fenced small and large dog areas, water stations, upgraded lighting, the potential for public art, opportunities for community programming, prominent donor recognition, and other pet amenities.

The comprehensive project, including Foxtown Landing, the public dog park and the RiverWalk expansion, will redevelop nearly 1.4 acres of vacant land, spanning from St. Paul Avenue to Clybourn Street, according to the press release.

Efforts to build downtown’s first dog park are being co-led by Matt Dorner, economic development director of the Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement Disrict, and Paul Schwartz, executive director of the Historic Third Ward Business Improvement District.

“This is a generational opportunity to reinvent a long dormant, underutilized, but highly visible area of downtown into what will be a true destination that enhances downtown’s quality of life and bridges the gap between the Historic Third Ward and Westown neighborhoods,” Dorner said.

Schwartz called the news a significant milestone for the dog park project and “certainly a bode of confidence from one of the country’s largest specialty pet food manufacturing companies.”

“We’re thrilled to have them provide their leadership and vision as our title sponsor and are grateful for their investment in this legacy project,” he added.

The properties

In order to make the project work, Fromm’s will need to acquire a 5,481-square foot site at 406 N. Plankinton Ave. that is currently owned by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee. The rectangular parcel sits at the far south end of the site and along St. Paul Avenue.

The brewery development would be located on that site as well as a larger, 0.43-acre site that sits at 412 N. Plankinton Ave. immediately to the north of the RDA-owned property. That parcel is currently owned by Boise-based Walkers Landing Associates, but Dorner said Fromm’s is currently in the process of purchasing the lot, which has been vacant for roughly four decades.

Scott Welsh of Colliers is representing Fromm in the purchase of the Walkers Landing Site.

The proposed dog park site, which sits to the north, below 794, is owned by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Dorner said, but the dog park group is working with the state agency to work out a long-term use agreement similar to what is in place at Riverwalk Commons.

“We have been working with all the parties, for some time,” said Dorner, adding that city and state officials have all been supportive of the conceptual plans thus far.

Both the dog park and Foxtown Brewery project will have to undergo formal site plan reviews by the city at some point.

Dog park fundraising 

Although fundraising for the dog park is ongoing, Dorner demurred when asked to specify how much it will cost to develop the  park, or how much the group needs to raise.

“We are not sure we can disclose that,” Dorner said. “We have agreements with donors, and we don’t have the final numbers.”

“We really hope that with this announcement it will just increase our momentum,” Dorner continued, adding that the group hopes announce more details in the coming weeks.

See more from WISN-TV Channel 12, a media partner of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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