By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Apr 19, 2023 at 9:02 AM

In May 2022, Near West Side Partners announced Concordia 27, a $16 million community center on the northwest corner of 27th and Wells Streets, to be built with $5 million in support from the State of Wisconsin and $2 million in federal funds.


The Concordia 27 mixed-use project at 2724 W. Wells St. will include 33 affordable housing units for seniors and families; a community gathering space; sidewalk-facing commercial spaces for nonprofits; a commercial, demonstration and incubator kitchen in the long, low, skylit former West Point Garage at the back, and more.

The former retail spaces will be occupied by Milwaukee Center for Independence (MCFI), Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee (SWIM) and Near West Side Partners (NWSP) to provide minority entrepreneurial support, housing resources and nutrition and wellness services.

MCFI will also operate the kitchen and offer training for youth and adults with intellectual disabilities and those who have been incarcerated.


The buildings – one of which was built in 1925 and called the Cecila Apartments, and the others, to the north, were an annex added in 1926 and ‘29  – have been owned by developer Rick Wiegand for nearly a decade and had been largely vacant.

They were designed in the Mediterranean Revival style by architects Gustave Dick and Alex Bauer, who also designed the Tower Theater across the street and the Oriental Theater on the East Side.

The new plan was drawn by Quorum Architects.

You can see interior renderings here.

I stopped over to see how the project is progressing and Wiegand showed me around.

commercial space
Some of the commercial space.

“There was an effort to figure out what could be done to improve the neighborhood,” he says as we walk through the retail spaces which have been torn down to the studs. “What came out of that was the need for a community center, which evolved into what is now Concordia 27, including Milwaukee Center for Independence, which I had been working with to try to find a location for a commercial kitchen.

Future commercial kitchen.

“I had also been working with SWIM, which is a concept developed by Amy and Mike Lovell to address trauma. Near West Side Partners needed a new home, too, but none of these organizations wanted to be alone at a location. So we all got together and developed the concept of Concordia 27 where they could all share this building.”

There’s an incredible amount of street-facing commercial space and filling that with these nonprofits will not only give them new homes for their important work, but will also activate the street.

There will also be a cafe and co-working space called Fruition.

Staircase to apartments.

Upstairs there will be the housing units in the former apartments/rooms. These, too, have been largely demo’d to the bones, but there are some great details that will survive, including terrazzo floors, arched doorways, a beautiful railing on the stairs and, above the old 1925 apartments entrance, the original engraved “Cecelia Apartments” sign.

Apartments to be renovated.

There’s space for a large parking lot out back, too.

“We're going full steam ahead right now,” Wiegand says. “We've already restored all the storefronts. That was the first phase of the project.

“It’s supposed to be completed later this summer. It’s coming.”

The restored storefronts from inside.

Across Wells Street are the old Doctors’ Hospital buildings that Wiegand hopes to convert into senior housing. Next to that is the old Tower Theater that Wiegand expects might become something like an events space or community center in time, and just south of that is the former Wisconsin Avenue School.

Wiegand had begun work to transform that into a suites hotel component to his nearby Ambassador Hotel, but the pandemic has left that project on hold for now.

But with the south side of the block between 27th and 28th Streets on Wisconsin Avenue now demolished for a planned new state office building, Wiegand is bullish on the neighborhood.

Upper floor corridor.

“I would like to think that is moving forward because the state now owns all the properties and they have demoed everything,” he says. “They need a new building. Their existing building is way past end of life and they need to consolidate a lot of the locations that they've got. It makes sense for them to have a new building, especially in a neighborhood that has the revitalization effort (we have) here.

An old Schuster's ad found in a wall.

“We've got Concordia 27 kicking off the north end of what I own, and there's other developers like John Hennessy, who's developing the New State, so the revitalization is sort of being held down on the north end by that project.”

A couple more views inside:

The apartments entrance.


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 has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.