By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published May 21, 2008 at 10:45 AM Photography: Jeff Sherman

"That cool building across from Roots would make a great bar or coffeehouse."

"I'd love to buy that old building across from Roots."

It seems that nearly every time a friend or colleague dines or drinks at Roots, 1818 N. Hubbard St. in Brewer's Hill, they mention that "cool building across the street."

Pictured above, it's located at 234 E. Vine St. and usually seems to have some level of activity inside or around it. A recent visit found a beautiful garden and a peek inside yielded a bar with work materials scattered about indicating that something might be happening.

So, what's the real deal at this building built in 1902? First, it was originally owned by the Miller Brewing Company.  It is nearly 2,900 sq. ft., and Mequon resident Robert L. Crawford owns it and some land around it. He's a retired MPS teacher who frequents the building regularly, but has no intentions to sell -- which is totally his right.

But, he told me last week that he's working on a redevelopment that  includes a townhouse and a bar and restaurant.  "This fall," is his timeline.

"My son will be doing the contracting," Crawford told me, who noted that there isn't a specific restaurant operator on board yet.  "We've had interest from a guy from Ireland who wanted to put a fish and chip in there."

Crawford's also had interest from a "Napa Valley winery," but, he says, "we'd rather do the restaurant ourselves."  

Officials at the City of Milwaukee say there was once a plan to raze the building and replace with single-family homes; the plan didn't meet City guidelines.

Many residents of the area agree that the building (assessed at $178,000) is ripe for redevelopment and all seem to agree that the area needs more gathering spots -- many are calling for a coffeehouse. For now, this building sits vacant locked with potential and awaiting what's next from Crawford and his son. 

Will something happen there, is it already happening or should it? Not totally sure. Personally, I'd love to see Crawford use the building for a more public purpose and it sounds like that is his intention.

One developer told me, however, that Crawford's talked about his restaurant for years, but never followed through. Maybe it's time to step up the efforts.

Summer's here and the view from 234 E. Vine St. is simply divine.

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.