Parking deal clears hurdle for Park East developers

Ruvin Development Inc., Gatehouse Capital Corp. and Hicks Holdings cleared a major hurdle for their two proposed Park East corridor projects by reaching a parking deal with the city that was approved last week by the Milwaukee Common Council.

The city will provide the development group with spaces in the parking garage at North Fourth Street and Highland Avenue, which was built in 1987 to provide parking for the Bradley Center and the surrounding area.

The 980-space parking garage has been underutilized since it was built, said Dorinda Floyd, the administrative services director for the Department of Public Works. The garage is only about 43-percent occupied during the day, and an average of only 415 spaces are used during special events at the Bradley Center.

"Our goal is to fill the structure," Floyd said. "We felt we had the capacity to meet the developers’ needs."

In the parking structure, the developers will lease a mix of spaces for daytime users, spaces for people who need to use them 24 hours a day and spaces for hotel guests.

The developers need the spaces for $206 million in projects they are planning in the Park East corridor. In the vacant 300 block of West McKinley Avenue, the developers plan to build a 180-room Kimpton Hotel, 72 luxury condominiums, street level retail space, a spa, a health club, a night club, a restaurant and a 327-space parking structure.

In the 1200 block of North Old World Third Street, currently used as a parking lot, they plan to build a 160-room Aloft Hotel by W, 13 condominiums, parking for the condominiums, banquet space and street level retail space.

The project also includes the acquisition and renovation of the Riverfront Plaza building, at 1110 N. Old World Third St., totaling $12 million over a five-year period to accommodate a new restaurant (Kincaid’s Fish, Chop and Steak House, which will open in early March) plus updates to common areas, lobbies, restrooms and the building’s exterior.

The parking deal with the city will provide spaces for the two new developments and Kincaid’s said Rob Ruvin, the owner of Ruvin Development.

"It really benefits all three developments," he said.

Construction for the Aloft building is expected to break ground this winter and construction for the Sydney Hih block, which includes the Kimpton hotel, should break ground in the spring or summer, he said.

The developers are still in negotiations with city officials about tax incremental financing (TIF) assistance Ruvin said. Site conditions including underground freeway foundations and underground utilities make development of the site more complex and costly, which necessitates TIF assistance, he said.

"Any developer that builds on the site would be facing the same thing," Ruvin said.

In addition, Ruvin said the former Gipfel Brewery building will not be part of the Sydney Hih block project and instead will be moved to a parking lot between Vecchio Bar & Grille, 1137 N. Old World Third St., and Asian Mart, 1125 N. Old World Third St. The Gipfel Brewery will be redeveloped into a restaurant, bar or other retail use Ruvin said.

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