Last summer, we took you inside the former Holton Street State Bank / Centro del Nino building (and its history) at 500 E. Center St., which was vacant at the time, while the city, which owns the building, sought a buyer with new use for it.
Now, Juli Kaufmann, of Fix Development, has stepped forward and offered $150,000 for the building, and along with Carolyn Weber, owner of Coast In Bikes in Walker’s Point, Billie Myhra and Wendy Mesich, is proposing Cream City Hostel, the city’s first hostel.
The Neoclassical two-story building – which is just short of 8,000 square feet – was built in 1927 for the Holton Street State Bank. It was designed by St. Paul, Minnesota-based A. Moorman and Co. architects.
The city had listed the property last year for $223,000.
According to a city proposal summary and public disclosure statement, the plan calls for 40 "dorm style bunk beds" in one-, three- and six-bed rooms, with common bathrooms, community rooms, kitchen, laundry facilities, secure bike storage and computer access.
The beds would be available for from $25 to $70 a night, based on number of beds per room and the season.
"The RiverBee Redevelopment Project is located at the nexus of two vibrant and culturally rich Milwaukee neighborhoods – Riverwest and Harambee," notes the proposal. "At the highly visible and accessible intersection of Center and Holton Streets, we propose a nearly $1 million redevelopment project that will become the Cream City Hostel, an iconic beacon welcoming local and international visitors alike to our friendly neighborhood lodging.
"River Bee/ Cream City Hostel will be a place for hospitality, fellowship, community gathering and a launching pad for discovery. The project will elevate these two neighborhoods as tourist destinations, delivering a unique traveler experience not currently available in the Milwaukee market, bringing visitors that will support local neighborhood businesses, and improving the local economy."
The proposal also notes that because there are no other similar accomodations in Milwaukee at the moment, Cream City Hostel would have no competition for "a unique customer base at the nexus of two atypical neighborhoods for lodging experiences."
In addition to accommodations, the hostel would host gallery space for local artists, as well as movie screenings, concerts and other events in its community spaces and outdoor gathering space in the large area behind the building.
In a written history of the project, Weber said that the idea for a hostel – then called Third Coast Inn – was born six years ago, but finding a suitable location proved difficult.
Kaufmann, Weber, Myhra and Mesich are hoping to crowdsource the financing, according to the proposal, which states, "neighbors will be invited to join the real estate ownership group through a crowd investment campaign to be launched once the property is acquired. We expect up to 35 local owners.
"Redevelopment will bring one vacant, blighted property back into productive use as a taxpaying, neighbor owned business that supports other local businesses while also bringing new customers to the neighborhood."
The developers hope to have the hostel open by the end of the year. The Common Council has to approve the sale before the deal can be closed.
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 OnMilwaukee.com 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.