Four years ago, two separate developers put two warehouses in Milwaukee’s Haymarket Square neighborhood under contract.
Jeffrey Koenig, chief executive officer of The Sigma Commercial Cos., purchased a three-story 7,500-square-foot historic warehouse at 419 W. Vliet St. He planned to use the building as an office.
Blair Williams, president of WiRED Properties, bought the National Ace Hardware store building at 1303 N. Fourth St. with Sean Phelan of Phelan Development. The two were eyeing the building for a large-scale office development with ground floor retail.
When the Milwaukee Bucks announced plans for a $500 million arena, plus another $500 million in mixed-use develop around the arena in the Park East Corridor, suddenly, the quiet Haymarket Square neighborhood, located just north of the corridor, got more interesting.
Koenig is now planning a speakeasy or wine bar in the lower level of his building, a first-floor restaurant, an event space on the second floor and a rooftop deck similar to the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel in the Historic Third Ward.
St. Charles, Illinois-based Windy City Motorcycle Group is planning to open downtown Milwaukee’s first Harley-Davidson dealership in more than 70 years at the National Ace Hardware building.
Despite being located immediately north of downtown, Haymarket was for years visually and psychologically blocked from the heart of the city while the Park East Freeway stood. When the spur was demolished, beginning in 2002, it was replaced by an at-grade, six-lane West McKinley Avenue. Some real estate professionals anticipated development would occur in the Haymarket neighborhood. But as the Park East Corridor remained vacant for years, there was also little development activity in Haymarket.
Now that the Bucks are moving forward with development for the Park East Corridor, Haymarket has begun to follow suit and will continue to attract new development, said James Barry III, president and chief executive officer of The Barry Co., which has its office along the corridor. Barry said he sees the Haymarket neighborhood as a potential mini-Third Ward or Walker’s Point.
“Every property within that area right now is somewhat in play,” Barry said. “We’ve already seen this area fairly active for the last few years, but there are still several buildings ripe for redevelopment. I see this not only as an area for entertainment, but for light manufacturing or office.”
The neighborhood is bordered by West Juneau Avenue on the south, West Walnut Street on the north, North Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and Schlitz Park on the east, and North Sixth Street on the west.
The neighborhood includes older industrial properties, Golda Meir School for gifted and talented students, and several nonprofit organizations, including Sojourner Family Peace Center, First Stage, the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Boy & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. The neighborhood is also home to J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.’s Milwaukee office.
Deshea Agee, executive director of the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District, said attracting more business to West Walnut Street and continuing to strengthen North King Drive would be beneficial for the area.
“Haymarket is really a walkable neighborhood,” Agee said. “It would be nice if we could bring in more food establishments that could bring people from the Hillside neighborhood across the street. That, coupled with what is happening with the arena district and King Drive, really brings it all together.”
Downtown Milwaukee and some of its surrounding neighborhoods have experienced a development boom since the end of the Great Recession, but the prosperity has not benefited the near north side neighborhoods, Williams said.
Williams said he would like to see Haymarket Square remain rooted in its industrial history, but be developed to include more amenities to serve the people who live there.
“Haymarket isn’t full of beautiful old warehouse buildings like the Third Ward,” he said. “And it won’t be a place for $100 million luxury apartment proposals. I think that is good. I would suggest we are more innovative.”
Bob Monnat, partner and chief operating officer at Mandel Group Inc., does not think Haymarket should be a continuation of the Milwaukee Bucks arena district.
Monnat said the neighborhood’s nonprofits have created a great family environment, which should be kept intact.
“Development should be conceived as a family-oriented neighborhood so kids can walk, or ride bides to their violin lessons, or they can ride their Bird scooter to the Y,” Monnat said. “This is an area that should really be thought through and not squandered.”