There's been a thrum of activity at The Brewery these days.
The Pabst Professional Center is going up on 11th and Juneau, Gorman & Co.'s new 100-unit market-rate Frederick Lofts is about to rise on 9th between Winnebago and Juneau, and more senior housing is being added in the former Pabst malt house and grain warehouse.
We can expect movement on two more big projects soon, according to Zilber Property Management spokesmen.
The old Forst Keller Restaurant (aka First German Methodist Church) across from the professional center is under contract, according to The Brewery website. So, too, is the former bottling plant, which runs along Highland between 9th and 10th.
Recently, a fence went up around the three-story cream city brick bottling house, and I wondered if it signaled a change in status for the building, which sits across from a nearly 1,000-stall parking structure.
Dan McCarthy, VP of The Brewery Project LLC, said the plan to develop the 237,000-square foot bottling plant into the International House apartments aimed at university students is still moving forward.
"We're technically still in the pre-development phase," McCarthy said Monday. "We're getting very close to doing some of the prep work, like removing lead paint, doing the window survey. Design and fiscal analysis are ongoing.
"We have started to meet with historic preservation regulators – state, local and federal. Everything we do has to pass muster with them. We're very encouraged and hopeful."
The Brewery Project LLC VP Mike Mervis said Monday that he expects there will be something to announce within about 60 days.
"We're working on designs, talking to a lot of people, doing a lot of discussions with potential users," he said. "I'm telling you it's going to be unbelievable."
In the meantime, he added, the fence was put up while the condition of the building is reviewed.
"The fence was put up so we could check everything and make sure everything up on the roof was in good shape," Mervis said. "Anything that was not in good shape was removed. When that review is completed the fence will come down."
Mervis added that it's possible the fence will only be removed briefly -- or even not at all -- depending on timing. It will need to be in place when exterior brick cleaning begins, hopefully, Mervis said, within 45 to 60 days.
Mervis said that while International House developer Blue Ribbon Management is also in the mix in terms of plans for the nearby Forst Keller, there's no deal yet. But work on that building is also moving forward.
The Business Journal reported last year that a wine bar and meeting space is planned for the gothic revival-style building – erected in 1872.
"We just met with the state historic architect," said Mervis, "so we have a pretty good handle on what needs to happen there. We have a preliminary understanding of how we would go about adding space."
Mervis said if a bar or restaurant were to open in the former church, additional space would be required to house restrooms and kitchen storage.
"There are no designs as of now, but we are working on it," said Mervis, who added that Zilber is also seeking an operator so the space could be built out to suit the operator's needs, "rather than saying here's a space the operator has to fit into."
A public announcement of more specific plans for the Forst Keller could be made around the same time as a release of details on the International House, added Mervis, who hinted that the lifting of the freeze on state historic preservation tax credits today may be beneficial to both projects.
In the meantime, DPW is expected to begin street paving work throughout The Brewery neighborhood soon. That work will include adding angle parking and a center core of trees along Juneau Avenue, west of the 8th Street roundabout.
"The whole look is going to change," Mervis said.
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 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.