Bike share nonprofit officially becomes first permanent tenant in Grand Avenue Mall Redevelopment on April 14, part of trend of economic investment in Westown Area of Downtown.

On Milwaukee Day, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and other officials inaugurated the new Shops of Grand Avenue headquarters and maintenance facility of Bublr Bikes, the non-profit organization that operates the Milwaukee area’s bike-sharing network.

As a result of the move, Bublr has become the initial permanent tenant in the Grand Avenue’s redevelopment, and it puts the bike-sharing system at the center of its growing regional network. Barrett and other officials discussed Bublr’s move and redevelopment of the Grand Avenue and Westown at an open house and grand opening for the new facility.

“Bublr is helping kick off the revitalization of the Grand Avenue,” Barrett said. “At the same time, the new Milwaukee Bucks arena is under construction nearby and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is planning to move into the former Grand Theatre across the street. All these developments will help bring new life to the area.”

Bublr is the first permanent tenant in the redevelopment plans of the Grand Avenue Mall. About 20 Bublr employees, including administrative staff and bike mechanics, will work out of the facility.

“Our new headquarters is close to our customers and the student-mechanics that participate in the training program that our non-profit organization operates,” Bublr Board President Bruce Keyes said. “This part of Milwaukee is in the center of our growing regional network and in an area that draws all Milwaukeeans together.”

Bublr is leasing 6,275 square feet in the Grand Avenue, where it has located its offices, a facility to maintain its fleets of bikes, currently totaling 512, and a customer service counter offering walk-in assistance, system passes and Bublr merchandise.

A new Bublr kiosk will be installed outside the Grand Avenue entrance at 275 West Wisconsin Avenue this year. A mini Bublr station may be installed inside the building itself, immediately outside the group’s offices.

“Bublr is our ideal first tenant as we begin to reinvent the Grand Avenue. The energy and dynamism that Bublr brings to the Grand Avenue will help us launch our turnaround of the shops. We look forward to more exciting new announcements like this in the coming months,” said Tony Janowiec, a principal of the Grand Avenue’s ownership team.

The Shops of Grand Avenue, in the heart of Downtown Milwaukee, was created as an urban shopping plaza in the 1980s. In December 2015, The Aggero Group and Minneapolis developer Hempel Companies bought the property. The new owners have announced plans to redevelop the Grand Avenue into a mixed-use project including retail, entertainment, office and other uses that will be unveiled this year.

To commemorate the open house and Milwaukee Day, Bublr Bikes offered free rides. April 14 is known as Milwaukee Day because the numerical version of the date is the same as the city’s 414 area code.

The Bublr Bikes system is a public-private partnership between the City of Milwaukee and Bublr Bikes, with additional support from many other public and private partners. Since Summer 2014, Bublr Bikes, a Milwaukee-based not-for-profit, has launched 57 bike share stations in several City of Milwaukee neighborhoods and Wauwatosa. In coming years, the system plans to expand to over 100 stations and 800 Bublr Bikes in Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, West Allis, and Shorewood.

© Photo
Lee Matz

Read the article and view the photo essay that were produced as companion features for this news report.