By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Dec 07, 2022 at 1:02 PM

Last September, we reported the news that a new East Side food park was in the works for the former Zak's / Humboldt Gardens building at 2249 N. Humboldt Ave. (a.k.a. 1025 E. North Ave.).

Behind the ambitious project is Clarence Morse, owner of Dark Horse Development, whose proposal to fully restore the former Schlitz tied house, which dates back to 1890, was accepted by the City of Milwaukee as part of the RFP proposal process in 2021.

After over a year’s work, the project is finally moving forward thanks to conceptual approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

That’s big news for the long-vacant building, which Morse says has been on the city’s list of 10 historical buildings which were in danger of being demolished. Over the past 20 years, four of the buildings on the list have been razed and five renovated, leaving the property at North and Humboldt as the only remaining property in question.

Humboldt Gardens buildingX

What’s to come

Morse’s plans for the property include an outdoor food park on the south side of the building, which would accommodate food trucks, trailers and/or other food vendors, as well as outdoor seating and a stage for live entertainment.

Plans also include a bar, eatery and coffee shop on the first floor of the building, along with a commercial kitchen space in the basement, which would serve as home base for food vendors and aspiring entrepreneurs. 

Current plans also include the creation of office spaces and/or an events space on the second floor of the building, with the upper floor used as the headquarters for Dark Horse Development.

Moving forward

Morse is currently in the process of working with architect Barry Yang to revise the plans for the property before returning to the Historic Preservation Commission for final approval.

“The ultimate goal is to create more rungs in the ladder for food entrepreneurs,” notes Morse, who says that he’s grateful for all the support he’s received for the project thus far.

“I’m really grateful to the city for all of their support,” he says. “And I’m thankful for the excitement the community has expressed. Ultimately this project is going to take a community effort, and so it’s about people believing in it and continuing to support it as we move forward.”

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

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.