Milwaukee Ballet receives initial approval from Third Ward panel

Two-story, 52,000-square-foot facility will be used for teaching, rehearsals

A rendering of the front of the Ballet's new Third Ward home.

The Milwaukee Ballet cleared its first hurdle Wednesday, gaining conceptual approval and praise from the Historic Third Ward’s Architectural Review Board for its new facility at the southern end of the Italian Community Center parking lot.

The two-story, 52,000-square-foot facility at 132 N. Jackson St. will include two large rehearsal halls for the ballet’s main dance company, multiple classrooms for children and adults, and five other rehearsal studios for children.

The all-brick building will also have a community component, with a two-story public atrium that includes a gift shop and two professional-sized stages that could be opened up for the public to view rehearsals, said James Shields, principal of HGA Architects and Engineers, who is leading the design team for the project.

The project also includes a 63-car surface parking lot to the south of the building. The parking lot will have to be approved by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

In December, members of the Italian Community Center voted to sell 1.8 acres in the southwest corner of the ICC’s parking lot to the Milwaukee Ballet Co.

The ballet will purchase the site for $2.4 million. Catalyst Construction will manage construction.

The ballet’s project is the first time the ICC has allowed development on its property, despite considering several other plans.

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.

Shields said he hopes this project is the first “chink in the dam that has held up development for so long.”

The Architectural Review Board asked the ballet and Shields to talk to the Glorioso family, which owns the adjacent property at 521 E. Corcoran Ave., and other neighbors about plans and possible connectivity through bike paths or parks.

The panel also wants more information about lighting, the entrance off Jackson Street and signage.

The ballet will be relocating its offices, which are currently at 504 W. National Ave., in the city’s Walker’s Point neighborhood. That facility is known as the Jodi Peck Center.

The ballet is currently working on a name for the new building, so signage is not complete, said Anne Metcalfe, ballet spokeswoman.

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