By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Sep 23, 2021 at 1:29 PM

Crestlight Capital and TPG Real Estate continue to refresh and create better connections within their 32-acre Schlitz Park office campus along the Milwaukee River and bordering the Bronzeville, Haymarket and Brewers Hill neighborhoods.

The current owners purchased the property in 2019.

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Surely the most obvious sign is the soaring 80-x120-foot mural painted by Milwaukee artist Greg Gossel on the south wall of the former Schlitz Brewery powerhouse on North 2nd Street, near Cherry.

The mural, completed in June, is highly visible and has drawn tourists and selfie-takers – as well as an oddly large number of dog portraitists. It’s been so popular that the developers are converting a small grassy patch in front of it to a pocket park that may be expanded into the adjacent parking lot in the future.

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Exposed barrel vaults.
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A number of interior spaces have been updated and remodeled, in some cases exposing original barrel vaulted ceilings and terrazzo floors, and upgrading lighting, furnishings and more.

Gossel is currently painting two more murals at Schlitz Park, both located inside the buildings.

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Mural in progress.
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The Brown Bottle Pub has also reopened under the watchful eye of F Street Hospitality, which will also operate the soon-to-reopen Cafe at RiverCenter.

Another notable exterior upgrade has been the creation of Crossroads Plaza with transformed a former alley into a more welcoming and pedestrian-friendly connector between the RiverCenter (built at Schlitz Brewing’s distribution center) and Bottlehouse B.

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An adjacent former outdoor loading dock (above top) has been enclosed and transformed into a tenant lounge with arcade and other games (just above).

The work has been designed by RINKA and built by general contractor ADK. Colliers handles the leasing.

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Here, a span over the top of the plaza is adorned with letters that once hung on a bridge connecting the office building with the production building that is now home to MPS’ Golda Meir School’s Upper Campus.

The letters, which were old – but not apparently original, based on a photo of the bridge/sign – were found in the basement of one of the buildings on the former brewery site and were repainted.

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The old bridge. (PHOTO: Schlitz Park)
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The bridge – which looked much like the one you can still see today at the former Pabst Brewery – was removed in the 1980s.

That repurposing continues a tradition that previous owners Gary Grunau and Scott Sampson started when they purchased the site decades ago. They saved as many architectural and decorative elements as possible and squirreled them away for future use.

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Old brewhouse railings installed as an art feature.
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Some new items installed in remodeled spaces include signage from areas seen during brewery tours, some Schlitz signage, yards of original iron railings from the demolished brewhouse (torn down in 2013) and a wallpaper mural that once adorned the Schlitz gift shop.

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Brewery tour signage.
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Wallpaper mural.
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When I visited Thursday for a tour, I also got a peek in a couple tunnels underneath Schlitz Park – one was a narrow pipe-chase style tunnel (below) and the other a much wider one to accommodate employees and three-wheeled scooters moving between Bottlehouse B and the old distribution center (see video below).

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I'd been in one other at the complex a few years ago and it was more like the dark, narrow pipe chase tunnel I saw today than the wide, brightly lit one.

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The Power House.
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Perhaps more exciting was a stop in the powerhouse to see the water chilling facility that fuels the air conditioning for the entire complex.

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The old boiler.
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Up some stairs and through a hatch, we first see the now-moribund boiler that’s been idle for years but is prohibitively expensive to remove and then the chiller room, including a brand new chiller that uses river water for the A/C season and then returns it back to the river afterward.

In this building, on the first floor, are crates full of some of the salvaged items that may be incorporated into the public areas of Schlitz Park someday.

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There’s more railing, glazed terra cotta tiles, a variety of signs in terra cotta and other materials, an old iron staircase and a vast array of decorative architectural elements.

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These would join old riveted brewhouse structural supports, terra cotta building signs and other elements already dotted around the site.

Also added to the mix is the vast collection of Schlitz-related items collected by a new tenant, who purchased a huge cache of items in Michigan from the family that operated Stroh Brewery Company of Detroit.

Stroh purchased Schlitz in 1982 and shut down the Milwaukee brewery soon after.

Despite the effects of the pandemic, Crestlight Capital’s John Coury says that Schlitz Park is currently 93 percent leased and has 32 tenants, though he says that, as is the case throughout the country, actual on-site employee attendance is still low, hovering around 20 percent.

Climb up the Schlitz Malt House turret with me in this Urban Spelunking story.

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 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 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.