Downtown Milwaukee turned a corner at one of its most historic intersections: 3rd Street and Wisconsin Avenue, with its latest reincarnation. New plans were unveiled on December 6 to transform the former Shops of the Grand Avenue into an array of reimagined spaces, from a food hall to refurbished offices and apartments, to engaging new retail concepts.

Known as the Shops of Grand Avenue, the site will be rebranded simply as The Avenue, a refocus on its central location and recognition of its role in downtown.

3rd Street Market Hall

At its heart will be 3rd Street Market Hall, a street level 35,000-square-foot food hall. Spearheaded by Milwaukee restaurateur, Omar Shaikh, the food hall will feature more than 20 vendors that reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the region.

“This is much more than just another food hall. And I’m incredibly grateful to the owners for having the patience and guts to do this in a way deserving of this historic location,” said Shaikh. “The response from the restaurant community has been incredible. We already have letters of intent for 75% of the locations within the space and they’re all chomping at the bit to be a part of what will become Milwaukee’s most eclectic and electric scene.”

3rd Street Market Hall will include a special event space to support culinary experimentation, as well as a platform for Milwaukee’s new and upcoming talent. It will also contribute to Milwaukee’s growing reputation for innovative cooking and dining experiences.

Six of the initial vendors were unveiled:

  • Stone Creek. A pioneer craft coffee roaster founded in 1993 in Milwaukee that employs an army of coffee geeks committed to building lasting relationships with its producer-partners around the world, an ambition summarized in its “Farm to Cup” ethos.
  • Milk Can. A start up concept by Milwaukee chef Kurt Fogle and the team behind Muskego’s Bass Bay Brewhouse. With Wisconsin roots the partners are linked by a common passion: hometown classics—like burgers, cheese curds and custard reimagined and made better from scratch.
  • Funky Fresh. Funky Fresh Spring Rolls are handcrafted spring rolls made with fresh and local ingredients, and never deep fried but grilled in healthier oils. Founder Trueman McGee strives to bring not only delicious meals but nutritious options to his customers.
  • Donut Monster. Chef Jackie Woods along with his wife Sara will open a permanent Donut Monster pop-up at 3rd Street Market Hall. Made daily from scratch with the best available ingredients, these donuts are beloved for their natural tastes of quality fruit.
  • Char’d. The non-traditional menu is rooted in familiar Korean flavors while showcasing Chef Yosub Yoon’s remarkable creativity featuring everything from super rice bowl dishes to quick bites like Korean fried chicken wings.
  • Waterford Wine & Spirits. Founder Ben Christiansen will offer a curated tasting and purchasing experience, Waterford’s authoritative collection is unmatched in the region.

Further differentiating 3rd Street Market Hall from other urban food halls will be its central bar and engaging areas for friends and family activities like ping-pong, bocce, and even a giant Jenga.

“To me, downtown is where a certain magic happens at the center of every great city, every great regional hub,” added Shaikh. “Downtown is that unique place and space where everyone feels comfortable whether you’re there to shop, people watch, do business, eat, share ideas, get inspired, celebrate, dream…or just hang out. That’s why we’re redefining the downtown experience by bringing together Milwaukee’s best, its newest, its most innovative and its classics into a space that Milwaukee needs and deserves.”

GRAEF Leads Office Development

The complete reimagining of the former mall received a huge boost with GRAEF’s commitment to relocate its office to The Avenue. Much of the facility’s historic space will transition to new offices designed to facilitate the exchange of goods, services, ideas, and deal making in the heart of the region’s commercial hub.

The Milwaukee-based national engineering, planning, and design firm, will occupy nearly 35,000 square feet, which is more than 60% of The Avenue’s third floor space. The Avenue will provide GRAEF with the opportunity to put its commitment to sustainability and the environment into practice in its own workspace.

GRAEF also sees its space at The Avenue as an opportunity for increased engagement with its 170 Milwaukee-based employees, from creative, forward-thinking workspaces to downtown amenities that include access to a state-of-the-art fitness center, a 100-seat innovation event center, a tenant lounge, parking, and quick access to a world-class food hall.

“We are really pumped up to be relocating to Westown and The Avenue, acting as a further catalyst to the revitalization in Milwaukee’s historic center,” said John Kissinger, GRAEF president and CEO. “Being a part of The Avenue, and near other exciting developments including the Warner Grand Theater renovation and Fiserv Forum and its adjacent entertainment district, sealed our relocation decision. As engineers, planners, technicians and designers, we see not only what is, but have a vision for what will be, and our vision has taken us downtown to The Avenue.”

Plankinton Clover Apartments

The Avenue’s planned contribution to downtown living takes shape as the Plankinton Clover. It will feature 52 apartment units ranging in size from studios to two bedrooms. Following the concept of “work/live” units from the Germania Apartments a block north, the apartments will make use of their historic Plankinton Arcade environment. Floor to ceiling windows will be introduced that overlook W. Wisconsin Avenue, N. Plankinton Avenue, and N. 2nd Street. Most units have entrances from common corridors that connect to the second floor atrium, which will transform the atrium into a public street in the middle of a neighborhood. Plankinton Clover amenities include The Avenue’s dog wellness area, fitness center, a tenant lounge, a private movie theater, and access to the convention center.

“Look at old photos of the Plankinton Arcade and you’ll be struck by the feel of a quaint urban neighborhood,” said Tony Janowiec, co-owner of The Avenue. “The Clover recaptures that sense while providing residents with ideal work/live opportunities as well as highly-connected interim living options for corporate employers.”

Along with the other dynamic developments in the Westown neighborhood like the Buckler, the Century Building, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) redevelopment of the Warner Theatre, as well as the opening of Fiserv Forum, the area is becoming a catalyst for expanding Milwaukee’s vibrancy.

“As others have correctly noted, a vibrant downtown must have spaces for people of different backgrounds and cultures to interact and we take our role in that extremely seriously,” added Josh Krsnak, Janowiec’s partner. “We understand that due to our unique locale as a crossroads, we have a responsibility not only to connect all the activity happening to our immediate north, south, east and west—but also to provide a place where everyone in our region feels at home.”

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