By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Apr 24, 2023 at 12:31 PM

On Monday, Mayor Cavalier Johnson signed legislation to fund a new public plaza on a long moribund, high-profile Downtown site, and the city released an RFP for an operator of the plaza's food/beverage kiosk.

Phillips Plaza renderingX

Johnson inked Common Council file #221817 on the site of the future plaza that the file funds. Vel R. Phillips Plaza will be on the south side of Wisconsin Avenue between Phillips Avenue and 5th Street, across from the Wisconsin Center.

The park is named for pioneering politician, attorney, judge and Civil Rights activist Phillips, in whose honor 4th Street was renamed, after her passing in 2018.

The plaza – which is expected to be completed in 2024 – will occupy a portion of a surface parking lot created with the demolition of the Randolph Hotel and other buildings in the 1980s.

Phillips Plaza renderingX

The roughly 30,000-square-foot plaza will include a 2,900-square-foot food/beverage retail space; a manicured garden; a flexible space that could host farmers markets, food trucks or other community events; an informational kiosk; public art installations; and a Connect Bus Rapid Transit station.

The city also released a Request for Proposals for potential operators of the food/beverage space on Monday.

That proposal includes a site map that shows a path for a future streetcar route along the south end of the plaza.

The food/beverage building will be designed by Kubala Washatko Architects, and will have restrooms and space for outdoor seating as well as for an outdoor water feature or fountain.

The city is seeking a vendor that will operate the space seven days a week, "from 7 a.m. until at least 10 p.m. on most days," and will offer "uniquely Milwaukee food/beverage service with a focus on offering local brands and products," such as coffee/bakery in the morning; beer, wine and liquor in the afternoon and evening; ice cream, custard or gelato during warmer months; and serves food throughout the day (including a children's menu), with full sit-down service optional."

It also would like free wi-fi provided for plaza users.

You can find the full RFP here.

Another 55,000 square feet of space on the southern part of the space remains available to developers for proposed projects.

Phillips Plaza renderingX

Johnson proposed a funding plan in March and the Common Council unanimously approved that proposal, which was amendment to Tax Incremental District (TID) #48 (Park East Corridor Redevelopment) that will provide $15,750,000 for the construction of the plaza.

Phillips Plaza renderingX

The plan also includes $4.35 million for infrastructure and lighting improvements in the area and $500,000 for the Commercial Revitalization Grant Program that provides financial assistance to commercial property owners for building renovations and improvements.

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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.