The group responsible for The Avenue project in downtown Milwaukee recently discovered a unique basement area that could be made into an event space, duckpin bowling or a speakeasy.
Josh Krsnak, president and chief executive officer of Minneapolis-based Hempel Cos. and co-owner of the former Grand Avenue mall, said that the project team recently came across a roughly 12,000-square-foot area in the basement of one of the buildings connected to The Avenue. The area was discovered Monday, and the find was a bit unexpected, Krsnak said in a Friday interview.
The space is actually the abandoned basement of what Krsnak refers to as an "annex building" that connects the Matthews Building with the former Boston Store building, now known as HUB640.
The approximately 30-foot-wide annex building has two stories above ground and the basement level, which Krsnak said had long been "left for dead." When performing demolition work there, they discovered a stairway connecting the basement area to The Avenue and some existing bathrooms.
This isn't a typical basement, either. It's made of poured concrete and has "really high ceilings," said Krsnak.
Krsnak and Tony Janowiec, president and chief manager of Milwaukee-based Interstate Development Partners LLC, are turning the former Shops of Grand Avenue into a mixed-use center featuring apartments, offices and a first-floor food hall.
They also own the Matthews Building at 301 W. Wisconsin Ave. along with a number of other buildings connected to the former mall, such as the recently acquired Majestic Lofts building at 225-233 W. Wisconsin Ave. The Matthews Building is being incorporated into The Avenue project as offices. The two floors of the annex building next door are a part of that office space, said Krsnak.
Although no plans have been made final for the newfound basement space, Krsnak suggested it could possibly be used for events, duckpin bowling or a speakeasy.
"It lays out perfectly for duckpin bowling," he said. "The column spacing and all that lays out beautifully."
The Avenue project overall is moving along. Milwaukee-based Graef-USA Inc. in December moved into its new office space there, and the downtown Milwaukee Business Improvement District (Milwaukee Downtown BID No. 21) moved into its new offices on Monday, said Krsnak. He added that the food hall is scheduled to finish in May.