An empty lot in Bay View is slated to be transformed into a multi-business development which includes four Asian restaurants and a pedestrian friendly community space.
Construction on the project located at 2159-2161 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., the property between C-Viche and The Backyard, is currently underway with completion currently slated for July of 2023.
Behind the development are JJ Lert, Tammy Lert, and Tony Kora, who operate Rice N Roll Bistro, 1952 N. Farwell Ave., and Kin by Rice N Roll at 7484 W. State St. in Wauwatosa.
Kora says that the owners have been entertaining the idea of purchasing property for a number of years. “We opened Rice N Roll nine years ago,” he says, “And Kin four years ago. And we have worked hard with the hope of eventually owning a property of our own.”
So when the Bay View property became available, they decided it would be a good opportunity to move forward.
JJ Lert purchased the property in spring of 2021 after which the team began working with Dan Beyer of Dan Beyer Architects to draw up an efficient plan for the ambitious project, which will be built with the help of Kelly Construction & Design.
The property, which includes just over one-third of an acre of land and a building, includes the 60-foot-wide tract of land which spans the area between Kinnickinnic Avenue on the east and Robinson Avenue on the west. The building on the property, which faces Robinson Avenue, was built in 1918 and most recently housed a furniture refurbishment business.
As they talked about various uses for the land, Kora says they decided they would like to create a community-driven space, which connects Robinson and Kinnickinnic Avenues, creating a pedestrian friendly pass through which also facilitates access to the restaurants which will be a part of the development.
Two of the restaurants would have storefronts that face Kinnickinnic Avenue. One, which will be approximately 1900 square feet, could feature a modern Thai restaurant and a small sushi bar operated by a restaurant owner from New York. The restaurant would have bright floor-to-ceiling windows in front, patio seating in front of the restaurant and a rooftop deck accessible from inside the eatery.
The second restaurant, located just to the south on KK, would be slightly smaller (about 1700 square feet, according to Kora), but with similarly large front windows facing the east.
In between the two businesses, a pedestrian walkway would lead to a small outdoor patio area as well as a third building, located just behind the proposed Thai restaurant. This smaller building would house a concept managed by Kora and the Lerts.
Todd, a Thai word which means “fried”, is the name of the concept which would specialize in Korean fried chicken. Kora says that the menu would likely include numerous other items, but the primary focus would be on chicken and chicken wings.
“The restaurant will be the smallest,” he says. “So, we may not have room for inside seating and would probably rely mostly on carry-out. But we will also have the patio area right outside where people can sit and enjoy their food.”
That patio would connect with a more open park-like area with additional seating, landscaping and a stage, which could be used for community programming, live music or other similar uses.
Kora says that the concrete parking area along the northern side of the courtyard could accommodate visiting food trucks, adding even more variety to the development’s food options.
The final restaurant space will be located in the existing building on the property which faces Robinson Avenue. Kora says he is currently talking with a business owner who is interested in leasing the building for a concept specializing in Asian desserts and boba tea.
Ultimately, Kora says their hope is to bring in four distinctive concepts that showcase a varied cross-section of Asian fare. But he says the project is about more than that.
“We don’t have anything like a Chinatown here,” says Kora. “So we thought it would be great to build a little community of Asian restaurants along with a space for the community to gather.”
Tony Kora is entertaining serious inquiries from potential tenants who might be a good fit for the development. Business owners can reach out to him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.