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The brand new Huron Building in downtown Milwaukee expects much of its street-level retail space to be occupied by the southern-style restaurant Tupelo Honey come late spring. But keeping the North Carolina-based eatery on board with the project amid a global pandemic that has decimated the restaurant industry was no small task. It required Tupelo Honey and the Huron Building developer and owner, Milwaukee-based J. Jeffers & Co., to sit down and work out a new deal. This meant the developer had to make concessions such as taking on some of the build-out responsibilities and relaxing its rental rate, said firm president Josh Jeffers. "We just kind of renegotiated things, they were able to work with us (and) we were able to work with them," Jeffers said. "We pushed their timeline back six or seven months. A lot of it (renegotiations) was economic terms. They were going to start paying rent a lot sooner, they were doing more of the build-out. We kind of shifted that, now we're doing more of the build-out and we were able to work with them on the rental structure." In the end, Tupelo Honey agreed to stay on. Rather than October, it is aiming for a late spring opening. And the renegotiated deal was more than worth it, Jeffers said. "My perspective on it was, this is such a great activating use for the ground floor of the building, and so much of our goal with this project is it's catalytic," he said. "We want to connect downtown Milwaukee with the Third Ward, and want all this great pedestrian traffic along Broadway." He added Tupelo Honey had intended to pull out of the Milwaukee market altogether before the renegotiations. "We were able to slowly put pieces back together on our deal with them," Jeffers said.
The Huron Building officially opened its doors on Monday, with its anchor tenant Husch Blackwell expected to move in starting later this month. The $60 million, 11-story office building is located northwest of East Clybourn Street and North Broadway. Tupelo Honey will occupy 5,000 square feet of the building's retail space. The restaurant space, which actually extends two floors in height, will face Clybourn Street. Jeffers said he was surprised to learn Tupelo Honey was interested in facing Clybourn Street, rather than Broadway. But their interest in Clybourn, thought by some as an access point to the freeway rather than a city street, stemmed from their wish to connect with the nearby Milwaukee Public Market and Historic Third Ward neighborhood. There are two more retail suites in the building available for rent, each totaling roughly 2,500 square feet. Jeffers said the vacant suite facing Broadway could make for a coffee shop, but has also drawn the attention of fitness users. The space facing the alley between Broadway and Water Street has drawn interest from banks, he said. The suite could theoretically accommodate a drive-through, he added.
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