By Theresa Miller   Published Dec 09, 2005 at 5:02 AM

When Joseph Zilber, chairman of Zilber Ltd., announced on Nov. 14 that he signed a purchase option for the former Pabst Brewery, he said his company would listen to suggestions from local residents and leaders as to what should be developed on the site.

Now, Zilber is making good on his promise. Officials from the company will soon meet with local leaders, urban design experts, and neighborhood groups, among others. Additionally, the company has set up a Web site to solicit ideas from the public.

"We want people to give their views as to what constitutes a good neighborhood," said Mike Mervis, assistant to Joseph Zilber.

Zilber plans to transform the site into a neighborhood with houses, shops, and offices, rather than an entertainment complex like the one proposed in the PabstCity plan.

As previously reported on, Alderman Bob Bauman, who supported the PabstCity plan, backs the new plan and thinks the residential concept would entail less risk to taxpayers than the entertainment concept.

Under the purchase option, Zilber Ltd. has four months to develop its proposal for the Pabst site. In the next couple of weeks, the company plans to conduct a design charrete with academics from the UW-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Design, community leaders, neighborhood groups and real estate brokers.

Chris Cornelius, assistant professor with the Department of Architecture at UWM, described a charette as a short, intensive exercise meant to generate as many design ideas as possible.

Mervis said the next step will be to select a design planning team.

"The team will discuss the viability of the original (PabstCity) plan, and will decide which elements should be added or subtracted from the plan," said Mervis. "What remains will serve as the basis for the proposal."

Alderman Mike D'Amato, an opponent of the PabstCity project, praised Zilber Ltd. for its approach.

"The company is approaching the development from the ground up instead of from the top down," said D'Amato. "This is how development should happen."

Mervis said the company is open to all ideas (with the exception of the House of Blues and the GameWorks arcade). One idea the company is considering is whether to add a viewing platform at the top of one of the brewery buildings.

"According to historic preservation experts, from the top of the grain elevators of Pabst you can see Holy Hill," said Mervis.

Mervis and other company officials are aware that the Pabst site has the potential to become a tourist attraction. Mervis compared Pabst to Guinness Brewery in Ireland. To capitalize on the view of Dublin which can be seen atop the brewery, Guinness created the Guinness Storehouse with a panoramic rooftop bar and gift shop.

"Guinness has become the third or fourth largest tourist attraction in the world," said Mervis.

Mervis encourages people to submit their ideas for the Pabst Brewery site via the company's Web site,