Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:39 pm
The stretch of Juneau Avenue between Water Street and the former Pabst Brewery in downtown Milwaukee is poised for a major transformation. For years, the street has had a handful of bars, several vacant lots and abandoned buildings. That could finally change, as several projects are planned along the street, including some in the Park East corridor, which is located just to the north. The area will undergo a makeover and have a new life in the next few years, local business owners and public officials say.
“The Water Street area has been a great success, and the hope is that other areas of concentration can be encouraged that would provide a destination within the broader development,” said Robert Greenstreet, Milwaukee’s city planner.
A 12-story mixed-use hotel and residential development is expected to break ground in October on the southeast corner of the intersection of North Water Street and East Juneau Street.
Development Opportunity Corp. (DOC), based in Fort Meyers, Fla., plans to build the mixed-use building, which would have 15,000 square-feet of retail space on the first floor, a 120-room Staybridge Suites extended-stay hotel on six floors and 30 condominium units on the remaining floors.
“This is an ideal location for a hotel, condominium and retail development,” said Phil Hugh, president of DOC. “On Water Street, you are two or three blocks from every major area of town.”
DOC plans to open the Staybridge Suites by January 2008, Hugh said. The mission of DOC is to search for hotel opportunities throughout the country.
“Through due diligence and research, we felt that Milwaukee was a great city to be involved in and one that was in need of additional (hotel) rooms,” Hugh said. “The site is on the edge of the developed downtown and it helps to finish and complete that area.”
On the northwest corner of the same intersection, bar owners Andi Shaston and Jim Baade are in the final stages of finishing a remodeling of Mel’s on Water, 158 E. Juneau Ave.
Shaston and Baade, who co-own Rascal’s Pub, located at 2311 N. Murray St. on Milwaukee’s east side, are splitting split Mel’s on Water into two different bars. Baade will be the sole proprietor of Duke’s, which will be a beach-themed bar taking up the east half of the former Mel’s.
Shaston will serve as the sole proprietor of Scooter’s, the bar in the western half of the former Mel’s. Scooter’s is a personal tribute to Scott “Scooter” Schmidt, a well-known personality on Water Street who was murdered in his apartment in May 2005. Schmidt was an employee and friend of Shaston’s since she opened Rosie’s Water Works, a bar and restaurant located at 1111 N. Water St., in 1982. Shaston sold Rosie’s seven years ago.
“The design is totally different than what Mel’s was,” Shaston said. “We went with a more playful and Milwaukee theme, because that is what Scooter was about. His favorite slogan was, ‘No Worries,’ so that is kind of our slogan.”
While Scooter’s is under construction, Mel’s on Water is operating out of the part of the bar that will become Duke’s. Shaston plans to open Scooter’s toward the end of August and then close Mel’s on Water for good to create Duke’s.
A few doors west on Juneau Avenue is The Lodge Bar and Restaurant, which was purchased in June by Al Hildenbrand and his wife, Cristin. The Hildenbrands plan to make some improvements to the venue, Al said.
Since June, The Lodge has offered specials for private parties and in September, it will have an updated menu with more sandwich offerings.
Across Juneau Avenue from The Lodge is Brew City, which opened in March. Restaurant owner R.C. Schmidt moved Brew City BBQ out of its previous leased location at 1114 N. Water St. to the building he purchased at 125 E. Juneau Ave.
The new Brew City has an expanded menu beyond barbeque and appeals to a broader group of people than the original location, said Sean Burke, director of operations for Schmidt’s restaurants.
West of Brew City, two proposals for the Milwaukee County-owned land between Old World Third and Fourth Street and between West Juneau Avenue and West McKinley Avenue are being considered by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.
Milwaukee-based Rana Enterprises Inc. and Mequon-based Ruvin Development Inc. have both planned mixed-use developments for the 2-acre parcel.
Ruvin Development owns and plans to renovate Sydney Hih, an historic building. Ruvin Development also plans to relocate and renovate the Gipfel Brewery building, the oldest brewery building in Milwaukee, which is currently located on land owned by the Bradley Center. Ruvin Development plans to uproot the brewery building, built in 1853, and place it on the county-owned land as part of the development project.
The development also could include a 175-room hotel, 70 condos, a 330-car parking structure and office and retail space. The project is estimated to cost about $104 million.
“We are excited and feel that this type of development would be good for the Park East and bring national attention to Milwaukee by creating interest from national retailers and restaurants,” said Rob Ruvin, president of the firm. “(The attention) is great for our site, but it will also attract people to the outlying lots and should help raise property values on our site and all of the sites around us.”
Ruvin partnered with Dallas-based Gatehouse Capital, a development firm that recently completed a W Hotel project in Dallas, which included a 20-story hotel, a restaurant and retail space very similar to the plan for Milwaukee, Ruvin said. Ruvin declined to disclose the brand of hotel that would be part of his development.
Rana Enterprises Group has proposed a different type of mixed-use plan for the parcel. Rana’s $34 million development would include an 18-story, 202-room hotel, a gas station and convenience store, office space, retail space, a 400-car parking structure with a rooftop tennis court and running track and a public plaza.
“The Rana Tower would offer a landmark structure to serve as the grand entrance to the rest of the Park East corridor,” said Asif Rana, owner of Rana Enterprises. “In addition to attracting guests to downtown Milwaukee with a luxury hotel, it would also serve the rest of the corridor and downtown with amenities that are currently lacking.”
Across Juneau Avenue from Sydney Hih is an empty 15,000 square-foot lot where three large orange question mark sculptures are on display. The property was sold to Interventure and Black Coral Holdings in July. CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. (formerly The Polacheck Co. Inc.) brokered the deal. Peter Glaser, vice president of the CB Richard Ellis Milwaukee office, said there has been talk of a mixed-use development for the site. Meanwhile, Milwaukee-based Zilber Ltd. was scheduled to close on the purchase of the former Pabst Brewery from Milwaukee-based Wispark, LLC on Aug. 15. The company plans to break the brewery property into smaller pieces and sell or lease some parts to other developers and develop parts of the property itself.
Mike Mervis, assistant to Zilber Ltd. chairman Joseph Zilber, said Juneau Avenue could become a very hip and trendy place by the time the Pabst Brewery site and the Park East corridor are redeveloped.
“Our goal is that we will have developed at Pabst in early 2008,” Mervis said. “I think there will definitely be bars and restaurants and wonderful places to eat and visit. There will be parks and good things, but at this point it is premature. We are talking to local people mostly, and national folks as well.”
Zilber is currently working on a redevelopment plan for the Pabst Brewery site.
“Within five years, Juneau Avenue could be competitive with Water Street,” Mervis said.
Fourth District Ald. Robert Bauman said he doesn’t think development in the Park East corridor and the area around it, including Juneau Avenue, will be finished for another 10 years.
“Good development takes time to evolve,” Bauman said. “It takes time for the market to absorb trends, to absorb the previous development that has taken place.”
The City of Milwaukee needs to consider developments that are of the highest quality and will offer the best use of land, Bauman said. Milwaukee needs to have patience and foresight, and the city cannot afford to jump at the first opportunity or accelerated opportunity for land development, he said.
“The idea is, if you can create a series of events in one area, a recreational shopping zone, if you have sufficient critical mass, the whole will exceed the sum of its parts and become a destination,” Greenstreet said.