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Food and beverage industry center of excellence pitched for Milwaukee's near west side

Tuesday, January 9, 2018   (0 Comments)
Journal Sentinel

Tom Daykin



A local food and beverage industry networking group hopes to create a center of excellence with offices, a shared lab and even a rooftop farm on Milwaukee's near west side.

Food and Beverage (FaB) Wisconsin wants to develop the center at Milwaukee County's former City Campus, a three-building complex south of W. Wells St. between N. 27th and N. 28th streets.

The former county office buildings are owned by developer Rick Wiegand.

The main nine-story building, originally a hospital, would be renovated to house the new center, said Shelley Jurewicz, FaB Wisconsin's executive director.

An adjacent five-story building could house a small supermarket, she said. Additional nearby buildings owned by Wiegand could be redeveloped for restaurants, additional food makers and other uses.

Collectively, the development would be called Food and Beverage Square, Jurewicz said.

FaB Wisconsin has tentative commitments from prospective tenants for around 25,000 square feet of the 100,000 square feet at the nine-story building, she said.

The group probably needs to get around 50,000 square feet committed through signed letters of intent to lease that space in order for Wiegand to obtain financing for the project, Jurewicz said.

Food and Beverage Square would be part of the city's new North 27th Street Corridor Strategy, which the Common Council's Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee approved Tuesday. That strategy focuses on redeveloping N. 27th St. between W. Highland Blvd. and W. St. Paul Ave.

The FaB center would house offices and processing space for food and beverage makers; a shared laboratory; other firms and organizations related to the food industry, including the company that produces the Wisconsin Foodie TV show; a street-level food industry public gallery, including a demonstration kitchen, and a rooftop farm.

The trade group began focusing on the near west side after a 2015 effort to create a center in Walker's Point fell through.

That center would have been part of Milwaukee Area Technical College's Education Center at Walker Square, 816 W. National Ave.

But there was a lack of interest among MATC students for the food industry-related courses that would have been offered there, Jurewicz said.

The food center's backers hope the project would have an impact on the near west side similar to the Global Water Center, which has helped attract more development to Walker's Point.

It would be just north of one of Wiegand's other projects: the planned conversion of the former Wisconsin Avenue School, 2708 W. Wisconsin Ave., into the 23-suite extended-stay Ambassador Suites hotel.

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