By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published May 01, 2024 at 3:06 PM

The Department of City Development’s plans to replace a Downtown surface parking lot with a park and food and beverage space are moving forward. 

Today the DCD announced a proposal for a yet-unnamed food and beverage operation that would operate seven days a week at the Vel R. Phillips Plaza at 401 W. Wisconsin Ave. 

Nathaniel Davauer of Draft & Vessel is behind the project, which would focus on some of the city’s strongest food and beverage traditions – namely beer, burgers and cheese curds – and deliver them from an innovatively designed space alongside seasonal pop-ups like  The Soup Brothers in the winter and an ice cream concept during the summer.

Davauer has proven to be facile with such projects in the past:  offering beer service from an antique Ford truck at the Milwaukee Public Market, showcasing a retro flaming van at street festivals and creating an urban beer garden garage in Walker’s Point.

“It's been exciting to watch the downtown renaissance in Milwaukee,” noted Davauer in a release on the proposal. “As a farm kid who would be lucky for a single trip to Grand Avenue in the '80s, the opportunity to operate at Vel Phillips Plaza will be a full-circle experience. Considering the storied history of Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee, it's even more significant to be a part of the streetscape’s future in this stunning building at the Plaza.”

 The lease is subject to approval by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM) and is scheduled to be heard at their board meeting on May 16, 2024, and by the Common Council of the City of Milwaukee.

“The Vel R. Phillips Plaza is poised to be an exciting addition to the growing and thriving Westown area off downtown Milwaukee,” DCD Commissioner Lafayette L. Crump said. “The Plaza showcases an extension of downtown’s positive economic and societal developments. I couldn’t be more pleased about bringing the expertise from a food and beverage leader in our region to the space.”

The Plaza, which will be situated between North 5th Street and North Vel R. Phillips Avenue, will offer several additional public amenities including a garden, an informational kiosk, a future streetcar extension that will run through the Plaza, and a Milwaukee County Connect 1 East-West Bus Rapid Transit station. The Plaza will also feature an original City-commissioned art installation in honor of Vel R. Phillips.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.