By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jan 03, 2024 at 10:09 AM

(UPDATE: This deal fell through and in mid-February the City announced another Request for Proposals for operators to occupy the plaza facility.)

When the new Vel R. Phillips Plaza opens on West Wisconsin Avenue later this year, it could be home to a second location for Nomad Coffee Bar.

When the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee meets on Jan. 18, it will discuss a vendor lease for Caravan Hospitality, which opened a Nomad Coffee Bar in 2021 on North Warren Avenue, next door to Brady Street's Nomad World Pub.

If the lease is approved and signed, the new coffeehouse is expected to open in late 2024 in a new 2,900-square-foot building on the plaza, which is currently under construction on the south side of Wisconsin Avenue between Vel R. Phillips Avenue and North 5th Street.

The $15.75 million plaza will also have public art, an information kiosk, a Bus Rapid Transit station and a flexible space that could host events like farmers markets and food trucks.

The city is also seeking proposals for development of an adjacent 55,626-square-foot parcel of land. Both parcels have been vacant since the Randolph Hotel and a row of retail buildings were razed more than 30 years ago.

“The City of Milwaukee is quickly advancing work at the Vel R. Phillips Plaza in Westown. It’s adding to vibrancy and growth downtown,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson Wednesday.

“I look forward to Nomad Coffee Bar, a local business that will spur further economic development to this area. It is one more element enhancing this world class gathering space honoring Vel R. Phillips.”

The lease proposal – between the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee and Caravan – include a cash grant for up to $750,000 for tenant improvements.

“I am so excited for the opportunity to be a part of the growing energy and revitalization of the Westown neighborhood and believe the Nomad Coffee Bar concept is a perfect fit for the VRP Plaza,” said Caravan CEO Mike Eitel said.

“The synergies between the mission of the VRP Plaza, the Nomad Coffee Bar as a business model, and the core values of Caravan Hospitality’s company culture are truly aligned.”

The plaza is centrally located across the street from the Baird Center convention facility, the Hilton City Center Hotel and HUB 640 development, and near 3rd Street Market Hall, the Bradley Symphony Center, Milwaukee Tool’s new offices, The Avenue and other Westown developments.

District Ald. Robert Bauman and Phillips’ son Michael Phillips also voiced support for the lease in a release issued by the City of Milwaukee Wednesday.

“I support the proposed lease that will enliven this public space in honor of a true icon of our greater community, Vel R. Phillips,” said Bauman. “I am pleased that Mike Eitel is the successful respondent and investing in the Vel R. Phillips Plaza. This development will enhance this transportation hub by providing better connections to neighborhoods.”

“On behalf of myself and my family, we welcome the future Nomad Coffee Bar at the Vel R. Phillips Plaza,” added Michael Phillips.

“We support the Redevelopment Authority’s approval of the lease for the coffee bar. I am excited by the opening of her plaza, where all may enjoy its offerings and learn about her legacy and its impact in our community."

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.