By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 09, 2020 at 1:45 PM

A vacant bank building in the Washington Heights neighborhood could become a food hall called North Avenue Market.

The low-slung, single-story building that most recently an Associated Bank at 5900 W. North Ave. would – if plans filed with the city are approved – be converted into a 5,100-square-foot bi-level facility with space for 12 vendors, with a projected opening in March or April 2021, according to owner William "Chris" Harris-Wimsatt.

The site is also located across the street from the burgeoning East Tosa neighborhood to the west, and adjacent to the Uptown Crossing neighborhood to the east.

The spaces in the $1.5 million project would be a mix of food and retail, says Harris-Wimsatt, who lives in the Washington Heights neighborhood.

The proposal calls for six retail and food vendor spaces on the lower level, along with a seating area and pool table.

The main floor would house six food vendors along with a stage for performances, televisions, a coffee shop and a drive-thru and walk-up window that will be available to all vendors.

Harris-Wimsatt also plans indoor and outdoor seating with a fireplace.

"I have a few retailers I am in discussions with," says Harris-Wimsatt. "I need more, and would be happy to discuss the plans with those interested. The hope is to have several types of diverse foods and cultures represented.

"The lower level will house a 'dessert alley,' with a similar diverse vibe. Additionally, we are exploring the possibility of having other food vendors, creative space – i.e., art, massage, sculpture, etc. – and a speakeasy. This area will have more of a chill vibe."

Before moving forward, the project would require Board of Zoning Appeals approval.

"I have experience garnered through military service, corporate management, working in the higher education environment, and serving as CEO for a nonprofit," says Harris-Wimsatt. "When my partner and I made the decision that I would relocate to Milwaukee, the question came up, 'What will I do for work?'

"I always dreamt of opening a coffee shop or a bed & breakfast, (but it) would need both of us to be fully engaged in its execution, so it was easy to eliminate. Thus, I began to explore the coffee shop. The intent was to create a space where people could gather, commune with each other in a healthy way, use it as a space for creative thinking or just hang out and let their mind unwind. I wanted a space where every felt comfortable ... no matter their race, ethnicity, culture or disability.

Galbraith Carnahan Architects, located a few blocks west on North Avenue, drew the plans for the project.

"All these (features) combine to make this a wonderful neighborhood gathering place, that can be enjoyed by the entire Milwaukee Community," wrote Harris-Wimsatt in his application.

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.