By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 14, 2003 at 5:30 AM

Some Milwaukee musicians have known about the Bay View complex of buildings for a while now. Some had practice spaces in the boarded up and abandoned-looking place. Others purchased equipment flight cases from King Kase, which was located there, too.

But now, the former tannery complex west of Howell Avenue has been truly reborn as The Hide House.

Gib Bathrick, who has been involved in the music scene here for a number of years, bought the complex in September 2001 through his Alton Enterpriss, LLC.

"The impetus behind the purchase was simply that I couldn't find practice space in Milwaukee," says Bathrick. "I noticed that there were a lot of artists and other musicians in the same predicament as me. I was originally looking for 10-20,000 sq. ft. to subdivide into rehearsal and work spaces, but I came across this property and it held a lot of potential for a larger scale arts complex. The abundance of space also presented other opportunities for fostering and incubating small business here in Milwaukee."

Formerly owned by Kaiser Properties, the six-structure complex has just under a quarter-million total square feet, says Bathrick, who adds that the city's Department of City Development and Ald. Susan Breier have been key to the success of the project.

Word has spread quickly, and The Hide House has already taken part in two Gallery Nights and other events. The combination gallery and artist studios could be just the rally point that the Bay View neighborhood seems to need. Although there have been sporadic sparks south of Walker's Point, the neighborhood could use a big jolt.

"The purpose of The Hide House has several elements: We want to provide clean, safe work space for artists and musicians to do their creating," Bathrick says. "The continuing development of downtown and the Historic Third Ward has been wonderful in many ways for the city of Milwaukee, but it has displaced many artists and other creative types that can't afford the inflating rents.

"Economics aside, I wanted to create a community where these creative people can gather and share their energy, ideas, and inspiration. As a musician it's helpful to be around other musicians; it gets you thinking and moving and motivated."

But Bathrick has been around long enough to know that catering solely to artists won't necessarily pay the bills. So, he has other objectives, but like the other goals, these are also forward-thinking.

"Our other focus right now is on small business incubation via The Milwaukee Collaborative," Bathrick says. "(And) the gallery is intended as a multi-use room and is open to groups and individuals for event or recurring rental. To date it's been rented for private parties, weekly dance instruction, fund raisers, wedding receptions, play readings and more. Since the room is so beautiful and classic, we've rented it out for several fashion shows and photo shoots."

Bathrick is hoping that the economically-priced gallery space can both provide a useful area for local groups, classes and clubs to meet and infuse a bit of cash flow into the project.

Well, how's it going so far?

"It's taken a lot of elbow grease but we've gotten the gallery into really wonderful shape," Bathrick says proudly. "Both the January and April Gallery Nights had wonderful turnouts. They've helped raise the awareness of our presence and what we're doing."

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The Hide House is slated to host The Bay View Arts Guild's First Annual Spring Exhibition, Friday and Saturday, May 16 and 17, and there are a number of wedding receptions and other private events already on the books.

But Bathrick knows that one of the biggest hurdles he needs to overcome is the complex's location.

"Despite its size and soon to be realized potential," he says, "even many long-time Bay View residents didn't know that the complex existed until recently.

"This was easily one of my biggest initial concerns, and it has on occasion been an issue. However, as time has passed and many people have been able to find the place for a variety of events, the location has turned out to be an advantage in many ways."

Bathrick notes that parking is plentiful, both on the street and in The Hide House's own parking lot, and that there are no real traffic issues to overcome. The site is convenient to I-94 and a number of major thoroughfares, too. Soon, Bathrick says, there will be signage on Chase and Howell Avenues helping to direct visitors to the site.

In the meantime, if you want to check it out, follow these simple directions: From the corner of Lincoln and Howell, go South on Howell exactly ½ mile. Take a right (west) on Dover and drive five blocks. Dover dead-ends into the complex.

Visit The Hide House on the Web at www.thehidehouse.com.

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 an episode of TV's "Party of Five," 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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.