By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Dec 22, 2020 at 11:01 AM Photography: Galbraith Carnahan Architects

This summer, we shared the plans for the forthcoming North Avenue Market, a project slated to transform the vacant bank building at 5900 W. North Ave. into a food hall and community gathering place.

The timeline for the project, which was originally forecasted an opening in spring of 2021, has been pushed back. However, according to founder William "Chris" Harris-Wimsatt, the project is currently on track for an opening in July of 2021.

“When you are looking to get into a business like this, you have to be prepared to make adjustments,” says Harris-Wimsatt. “Planning is important; but you plan to 80% capacity so that you have the capacity for the unknown. Fortunately, I’m working with a great team of talented people. We’ve all connected very organically. And the city has been very supportive of our plans, even going out of their way to answer our questions.” 

Currently, the project has gleaned both aldermanic and neighborhood support, as well as the acquisition of a liquor license and the variance needed to re-purpose the bank’s drive-thru. In addition, approximately half of the vendors for the market have been secured, and Harris-Wimsatt says that he hopes that construction on the physical space can begin sometime in March.

All of this is good news for the area – particularly the Washington Heights, East Tosa and Uptown Crossing neighborhoods – all of which gain benefit from a community gathering place focused on providing a welcoming and accepting space for all.

North Avenue Market interior rendering
Rendering: Galbraith Carnahan Architects
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Mission driven

Even amid shifts in its plans, the North Avenue Market promises a destination which promises varied dining and retail experiences, live entertainment, indoor and outdoor seating areas, a well-curated bar and a convenient drive-thru window where folks can grab anything from a coffee to a multi-course feast for the family.  

And that vision has become even more clear as Harris-Wimsatt has carefully curated vendors for the project, all of whom have expressed support for the project’s mission.

“We’ve gathered like-minded businesses who share our goals of creating a diverse, welcoming community,” he says. “And that vision is so important. It’s not about the market; it’s about the community that we are building with the market.”

Coffee shop & bar

So far, Harris-Wimsatt says the ground floor, which was designed to accommodate a coffee shop, a main bar and five vendors, is coming along nicely. Plans have been designed to include  easy wheelchair access, including an elevator that enables easy access to both Market floors and table-top-height seating on the northern side of the Market’s bar.

The coffee shop, which will occupy a portion of the building on the western side (and have access to the drive-thru) will serve coffee provided by a local roaster. In accordance with the community-based mission, operations will be overseen by Rubryx, a program for high school and college students which pairs a curriculum in on-the-job learning and transferable core competencies with real world experience and hands-on learning opportunities. Staff for the shop will include students from local institutions including Marquette University and Kingdom Prep Lutheran High School.

Meanwhile, the ground floor bar will be operated in partnership with Bittercube, 4828 W. Lisbon Ave., the Milwaukee-made cocktail bitters brand which has also played an instrumental role in training some of the city’s best bartenders. In addition to managing day-to-day bar operations, Biittercube will also serve as a managing partner for various aspects of the market.

Food, offices, retail & speak-easy

As far as food is concerned, three of five vendor stalls have been filled and will include fare from a popular (but currently unnamed) vegan restaurant, Sharon’s Table (a new concept which will serve a menu of  soul food) and Juana Taco/Mangos Cafe, a dual concept offering tacos and select Caribbean inspired fare.  

The lower garden level, which will be designed to portray the look and feel of an actual garden, will now include a collection of small rentable office spaces, as well as a conference room, both of which will be available for rent for flexible time periods that accommodate daily half- or full-day rental as well as weekly, monthly or yearly rates.

The garden level’s lounge area will be surrounded by three food vendors, including Arty’s Sweet Talk Cupcakes, as well as Opulant Studios, which will offer massages and facials. There will also be Mosler’s Vault, a speak-easy operated by Bittercube in a room originally designed as a bank vault (and named with reference to the vault manufacturer).

Meanwhile, entertainment spaces will be integrated on both levels and will include a ground floor stage with a large screen which can be used for cocktail or cooking demonstrations, live music performances, presentations or community viewing of athletic games. A shared sound system will accommodate two separate synchronous events or allow main stage performances to be broadcast simultaneously on the garden level.

Harris-Wimsatt says that, in the months ahead, they hope to add four to five additional vendors. Two would occupy ground floor spaces, including one with access to a pick-up window on the front of the building. Three more are available on the garden level; one would be ideal for a dessert vendor to complement cupcakes. Another would accommodate an additional food vendor, and the third could accommodate either a food or retail business.

“We are looking for folks who offer something different,” he says. “It could be anything from Asian cuisine to pizza, fresh juices or sandwiches. And I would like to see at least one more dessert vendor.” 

Interested vendors who share Harris-Wimsatt’s vision and would like more information, a tour of the space and detailed plans are encouraged to reach out to Marnie Noel at mnoel@noelrea.com or Chris Harris Wimsatt at chrish@northavemkt.com. Additional information can be found at northavemkt.com.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

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.