Rodney Zimmerman, co-owner of Ally's Bistro in Menomonee Falls, had heard about Mandel Group Inc.'s plans to redevelop a historic powerhouse building in Wauwatosa.
Known as the "M10" building, it would be redeveloped for commercial uses as part of the Milwaukee-based developer's mixed-use project that also includes a 102-unit apartment complex and 119-room hotel. The project is at 10460 Innovation Drive in Wauwatosa.
Zimmerman thought it was the perfect location to expand the business.
"For years, Michelle (Zimmerman, co-owner) and I talked about having a second location, and if we were to put a thumb tack on a map, it would've been just about exactly where this is," Zimmerman said during a recent tour of the M10 construction site.
He had read in local media reports that Mandel Group was open to a café as one of the tenants. So he cold-called Mandel Group. It took a while, but senior partner Bob Monnat finally got back to him. They sat down to discuss the project more than a year after Zimmerman first made contact.
"I thought, this fits our concept, this fits who we are," Zimmerman said. "I just asked him to take a look at who we are, what we serve and what people say about us."
Ally's Powerhouse Café is now one of two retail tenants going into the 8,200-square-foot building. The other is Vita Health & Fitness, a boutique gym in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward that integrates physical therapy with physical fitness.
Mandel will also have a leasing office in the building for its new Crescent Apartments complex next door.
Both tenants expect to open their second locations later this year. Ally's expects a mid-July opening, while Vita is aiming for August or September.
Vita also saw the M10 project as an opportunity to add a location, said Tommy Grabowski, the gym's owner and chief executive officer.
"Unlike our other current space, we're blending physical therapy and one-on-one personal training practice with a membership gym," he said.
Grabowski added he had already been interested in adding locations when Mandel first presented the opportunity at M10. He said a second gym outside of the downtown area will help grow Vita's reputation to a greater area.
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Vita will have a main gym area complete with fitness equipment and weights. The area will be used by gym members, and tenants of the Crescent Apartments can also access it at a discounted rate.
Another area will have the main desk, physical therapy treatment area, staff room, bathrooms and private shower, a massage room and another small area of cardio equipment. The smaller workout area will be available to apartment tenants free of charge.
Vita is also launching a mobile app with the opening of its new location. Grabowski said the app will allow members to follow their individual fitness programs any time they want to use the gym.
"So it's not just a piece of paper, you can follow through our app exactly what you need to do," Grabowski said. "And it allows us to track and make sure you're compliant. If you don't do it, it lets us know."
Monnat said Mandel is interested in offering the Vita app at its other residential properties.
Ally's Powerhouse Café, meanwhile, will have two primary indoor dining areas. One spot will be on a lower level, with the kitchen on one side and a bar on the other. A small set of stairs will lead to a second seating area.
There will also be an outdoor terrace with additional seating and fire pits on the north side of the powerhouse building. It will connect to the existing outdoor terrace at the SpringHill Suites hotel.
Both Vita's main gym floor and the lower dining area of Ally's will have heated floors. The ceilings in both areas exceed 30 feet in height. The tallest the ceilings reach on Ally's side is around 36 feet.