A new concert venue, along with a hotel and professional soccer stadium, are planned for downtown Milwaukee’s west side — a project its backers say will create a new entertainment district and transform a largely dead site.
The mixed-use development is to be built on an 11-acre site that includes the former Ramada Hotel, 633 W. Michigan St., according to a Friday announcement from Bear Development LLC and Kacmarcik Enterprises LLC.
The project is scheduled to break ground by early fall, with the stadium and entertainment venue projected to open in spring 2024. The project will also include 99 apartments as well as a street-level restaurant and retail space.
The 8,000-seat soccer stadium is to host a professional soccer team that Kacmarcik Enterprises owner Jim Kacmarcik plans to bring to Milwaukee.
More information about that team and its league affiliation are to be announced soon.
The stadium also will host Marquette University’s men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams as well as community events, recreational programs and other athletic uses. Those Marquette teams now play at the university’s Valley Fields facility, where they will continue to practice.
The new soccer field, featuring a synthetic turf surface, will be used from March through November, hosting approximately 200 events.
Kacmarcik, president of Kapco Inc., a Grafton-based metal fabricating and stamping company, has invested in other sports and entertainment businesses, including serving as lead owner of Forward Madison FC, Madison’s USL League One franchise.
A USL franchise, which is a notch below Major League Soccer, would be a big boost to Milwaukee’s soccer scene, which now features The Wave, an indoor team that plays in the Major Arena Soccer League.
“Milwaukee is one of the great sports cities in the United States, and we are excited to bring professional outdoor soccer to the community,” Kacmarcik said in a statement.
Pabst would operate venue
Pabst Theater Group, which counts downtown’s Pabst Theater, Riverside Theater, Miller High Life Theater and Turner Hall Ballroom among its concert halls, is to operate the new development’s 3,500-seat indoor entertainment venue.
The venue’s other operator will be “one of the world’s premier concert promoters” according to the announcement, which didn’t provide additional information.
The facility will host national touring acts 80 to 100 nights a year and more than 300 events a year in total.
It will be general admission, with some VIP seating, said Gary Witt, Pabst Theater Group chief executive officer.
That will distinguish the venue from most of Pabst Theater Group’s other locations, which generally use reserved seating, Witt told the Journal Sentinel.
That will bring different acts that prefer the general admission format, he said.
That includes artists such as Modest Mouse, Spoon and Phoebe Bridgers.
The announcement of the new venue comes one week after FPC Live dropped plans for a 108,000-square-foot site with a 4,000-capacity room and an 800-capacity room that was to be built near Maier Festival Park.
However, FPC Live is now reportedly considering a similarly sized venue on the downtown site of the former BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Hotel would overlook stadium
The new Pabst concert venue will be attached to a nine-story, 140-room hotel.
Plans for the upscale hotel, owned by Bear Development, feature a full-service bar and restaurant overlooking the soccer stadium.
The development site covers 11 acres bordered by North Sixth Street to the east, West Michigan Street to the north, and the I-794/I-43 interchange to the east and south.
The developers are buying the site from Marquette University. The site includes a large vacant lot as well as the former Ramada and other buildings, including one used by Marquette, that are to be demolished.
University officials say they will look for a new home for the Marquette Behavior Analysis Program, located at 525 N. 6th St.
Bear Development in 2021 disclosed plans for 140 apartments on the site’s western portion.
However, that five-story building will now have 99 units — the result of Bear Development seeking to reduce costs because of inflation’s effects on construction material prices.
The apartments are being financed in part with federal affordable housing tax credits.
Developers that receive tax credits must generally provide at least 85% of a building’s apartments at below-market rents to people earning no higher than 80% of the local median income.
“We are thrilled to work with the City of Milwaukee and other community partners to transform a long-dormant site into a vibrant sports and entertainment district, furthering opportunities to live, work and play downtown,” said SR Mills, Bear Development CEO, in a statement.
Mills said the financing package might include a tax incremental financing district. That would require Common Council approval
The sports and entertainment district expects to create hundreds of new jobs and draw 1 million visitors annually, according to the developers.
“This new development reimagines and promises to bring new life into a highly visible strategic corridor, presenting an exceptional opportunity to connect the Marquette University campus and Westown neighborhood with the downtown Milwaukee renaissance,” Marquette President Michael R. Lovell said in a statement.
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