Milwaukee Ballet plans to build performance center in Third Ward

ICC agrees to sell site

The Italian Community Center in the Third Ward.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:13 pm

Members of the Italian Community Center on Thursday night voted to sell a portion of the ICC property in the Historic Third Ward to the Milwaukee Ballet Company, according to a report from, a media partner of BizTimes Milwaukee.

Italian Community Center ICC
The Milwaukee Ballet Company will purchase 1.8 acres of the Italian Community Center parking lot in the Third Ward.

ICC president Joe Vella told that the Milwaukee Ballet plans to build a performance center on the site, a 1.8-acre parcel in the southwestern corner of the ICC’s parking lot.

When contacted by BizTimes, Vella said the Ballet approached the ICC with the idea and the membership liked the idea of the non-profit organization building a new facility that will be used for performances and to teach ballet.

The Ballet will purchase the site for $2.4 million, Vella said.  Representatives with the Milwaukee Ballet could not immediately be reached for comment.

For years, The Milwaukee Ballet looked for space to relocate its offices, currently located at 504 W. National Ave., in the city’s Walker’s Point neighborhood. In 2010, the Ballet, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts and the Medical College of Wisconsin formed The Harmony Initiative and worked on plans to develop a 90,000-square-foot building at the site of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts parking structure at the northwest corner of Water Street at East State Street.

Those plans were later shifted to the Laacke & Joys site at 1421-33 N. Water St. before ultimately being sidelined.

The UWM Peck School and the Medical College are not involved in this project, according to both institutions.

The ICC has considered plans for big changes to its Third Ward property for several years as well. In 2012, the ICC board hired a division of Marcus Investments LLC, a Milwaukee-based investment firm formed by the Marcus family, to do a feasibility study for the potential redevelopment of the ICC’s 15-acre property including the ICC building and the large parking lots to the south, known as the Coachyards.

At the time, the board was envisioning a mixed-use development at the site that could include parking, retail, restaurants and hospitality, but the project never got off the ground.

“The Ballet, being who they are, was one of the biggest drivers in this deal,” Vella said. “We are very comfortable about who we are selling this to. A lot of developers do mixed-use and we didn’t know what they were going to do. There were too many unknowns, whether it would be apartments or grocery stores. We feel the Ballet is a great part of the Milwaukee community and we want to help them.”

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