Signs of progress for the Pabst brewery redevelopment

The rotating sign on top of the grain elevators at the former Pabst brewery was lit and set in motion for the first time in years Tuesday night.

The rotating sign on top of the grain elevators at the former Pabst brewery in downtown Milwaukee was lit up and set into motion for the first time in seveal years Tuesday night.

Zilber Ltd. founder Joseph Zilber  is redeveloping the former brewery property into a mixed-use urban neighborhood. The brewery was closed in 1996. The rotating sign has been dormant for several years and was severely damaged by heavy winds and neglect. It is one of the largest signs in southeastern Wisconsin and one of the highest signs in the city.

Zilber hired Poblocki Sign Company to repair the sign, which now says "The Brewery" on one side and "A Joseph Zilber Historic Development" on the other side. The sign repair project included the replacement of motor parts and gears that rotate the sign, an entirely new face and updated lighting fixtures and bulbs. Electrical installation for the sign was done by Dairyland Electric, one of several minority-owned contractors working on the brewery redevelopment project.

Last week, Urban Spaces, a partnership of Milwaukee residents Christopher Dobs, Damingo Jones and Daniel Block, announced that they have entered into a contract to purchase the three-story, 14,000-square-foot historic blacksmith, wagon and paint shop building at the former Pabst brewery from Zilber. The sale price was not disclosed. The partners plan to move their upscale European flower shop, Urban Sense, from 5911 W. Vliet St. in the Washington Heights neighborhood to occupy half of the space on the first floor of the building in the former Pabst brewery. They also plan to create four two-story loft condos in the brewery building.

The brewery building they are buying was originally built in 1894, was modified in 1910 and is located just south of what will be the corner of West McKinley and 11th Street.

The partners plan to have two retailers on the first floor of the building, including the flower shop. They are negotiating with a tenant for the second retail space.

The condos will be priced between $250,000 and $350,000. They will feature amenities such as fireplaces, balconies, high ceilings and Cream City brick interior walls. This will be the first project in the former Pabst brewery complex with residential condos.

Urban Sense specializes in upscale and unusual flowers from exotic areas such as South Africa, New Zealand and Ecuador. Urban Sense caters to a large number of corporate clients and specializes in more unusual and spectacular wedding and special event floral arrangements. The shop will, in addition to flowers, feature a variety of fun and upscale gifts including candles, stationary, high-end pots and natural bath products.

The Urban Spaces project is expected to begin construction early next year and be complete next fall.

Zilber plans to sell some of the buildings in the 20-acre complex to other developers and redevelop some of the buildings himself.

Other developers that are purchasing properties in the Pabst brewery complex include Madison-based Gorman & Co., which plans to convert the 138,000-square-foot former keg house into the 92-unit Blue Ribbon Loft Apartments, and Boiler House LLC, an investors group led by developers Max Dermond and Charles Trainer, which plans to redevelop the brewery’s 55,000-square-foot former boiler house. The Albion Group Architects will move its offices to 4,000 square feet of space in that building.

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