By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Sep 15, 2023 at 12:29 PM

The last building standing in the way of construction of the new Milwaukee Public Museum in the Haymarket neighborhood is now vacant.

Bartolotta Restaurants, which has had its offices in the structure at 520 W. McKinley Ave. for 12 years, recently relocated to 234 W. Florida St. in Walker’s Point, occupying the six-story 1893 cream city brick Gem Hammock & Fly Net Co. building designed by Otto Strack.

Milwaukee Public Museum plans to begin tearing the building down next week, according to MPM's Director of Earned Media Madeline Anderson.

"At that point, part of the building will be taken down to enable boring to take place underneath the structure for environmental testing purposes," Anderson said. "The remainder of the building will be demolished once testing is completed and utility poles on the site are removed.

"We anticipate completing testing in the weeks ahead and beginning additional site work this year."

The McKinley Avenue building, erected in 1960 as a warehouse, has been owned by Milwaukee Public Museum since 2021.

Bartolotta, which has never owned the McKinley building, had a lease there through 2027, but agreed to leave early to allow for construction of the new museum to get underway.

“We recognize the importance of the new museum in Milwaukee, and we view our support as a civic duty that reinforces our commitment to the community,” says The Bartolotta Restaurants Co-Founder and Owner Chef Paul Bartolotta.

“The decision we have made allows us to pay it forward, as the Milwaukee Public Museum expansion will serve as a statewide cultural, historical and educational treasure, a symbol of our region’s greatness, and a beacon for friends, family, and neighbors to share for generations to come.”

In June 2022, two other structures were torn down on the 2.4-acre site that was created by combining three previously separate parcels of land, which had been owned by Martin Drive Real Estate LLC, First Partners LLC, and Haymarket Properties LLC.

The site – a former cattle yard adjacent to the location of the original haymarket from which the neighborhood got its name –  is across McKinley Avenue from the Deer District.

The new museum – being designed by Ennead Architects and Kahler Slater – and constructed by Mortenson and ALLCON – was announced for the site in 2020 and is expected to open in 2026.

MPM plans to hold a groundbreaking in spring 2024, when, Anderson said, "the weather is better outside at the site.

"Work is ongoing and we are feeling great about progress."

As a way to thank the Bartolotta Restaurant Group for its willingness to leave early, the museum plans to recognize the Bartolotta family in the new museum, according to a press release from the restaurant group.

Here is a question and answer we did with Censky about the new museum project in 2021.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.