Harley-Davidson dealership planned downtown near Bucks arena

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:51 pm

Downtown Milwaukee’s first Harley-Davidson dealership in more than 70 years could open at the former National Ace Hardware building just north of the Park East corridor and a block north of the new Milwaukee Bucks arena, according to several sources familiar with the deal.

Downtown Milwaukee’s first Harley-Davidson dealership is planned at the former National Ace Hardware building.

St. Charles, Illinois-based Windy City Motorcycle Group is planning to open a Harley dealership in the building, located at the northwest corner of West McKinley Avenue and North Fourth Street at 1303 N. Fourth St.

This will be the second dealership the Illinois network owns in the city of Milwaukee and the fourth dealership in the state.

In 2016, Windy City acquired the Milwaukee Harley-Davidson dealership at 11310 W. Silver Spring Road, saving it from permanent closure. The company also owns West Bend Harley-Davidson and Lake Geneva Harley-Davidson.

Justin Johnson, Windy City’s chief operating officer referred all questions to the company’s public relations representative.

“We are not at a place where we are ready to release any information,” the spokeswoman said. “We will be soon.”

Anthony (Ozzie) Giglio, who founded Windy City Motorcycle with his wife Jill in 2000, could not be reached for comment.

In July 2015, Hardware HQ LLC, a partnership formed by Milwaukee-based development firms WiRED Properties and Phelan Development LLC, purchased the National Ace Hardware building in for $2.5 million.

Blair Williams and Sean Phelan, the principals for those companies, declined to comment.

WiRED and Phelan’s original redevelopment plans for the building called for office space with a bar and lounge on the first floor and another restaurant on the property.

The property consists of four buildings with a total of 65,850 square feet of space. Other than a 2,000-square-foot warehouse addition in 1986, the rest of the complex was built between 1892 and 1911.

The primary building, which is three stories and 45,450 square feet, was originally constructed 116 years ago as part of Charles Abresch’s Wagon and Carriage factory.

At the time, the company employed more than 100 workers and later bridged the gap into the automobile era by becoming an auto body repair business, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Harley-Davidson, which began designing engines to be used in regular pedal-bicycle frames, is celebrating its 115th anniversary this year.

From about 1930 to 1947 Emil H. Kasten, operated a motorcycle dealership that likely sold Harley-Davidsons about four blocks from the National Ace Hardware building at  917 N. Fourth St., according to the historic Milwaukee City Directories. By 1950, Kasten’s shop was moved northwest, which appears to be the last time a Harley dealership operated in downtown Milwaukee.

Kasten’s shop is now the site of the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, 44 W. Kilbourn Ave., which opened as the MECCA Arena in 1950.

The Milwaukee Harley-Davidson dealership at the former Ace Hardware store building could be a major catalyst for the city’s Haymarket Square and Historic King Drive neighborhoods, which are hoping momentum from the Bucks entertainment district will continue north.

So far, the Bucks have announced Good City Brewing will open a second production facility and taproom, at the Entertainment Block being developed across North Fourth Street from the new arena.

Punch Bowl Social, a national “eatertainment” chain, is also expected to open its first Milwaukee location in the Entertainment Block, according to commercial real estate sources.

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