Friday, May 11, 2007

Venetian Theater Demolished

Word just reached me that the old Venetian Theater, a long-abandoned monolith on Center Street, was demolished at the beginning of April.

Venetian Theater, Center Street, Milwaukee

Milwaukee Renaissance has more information and photos.

Some well-wishers managed to salvage some of the beautiful terra cotta ornament, but not till after it had fallen to the ground.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Water Street Changes

Lots happening along my daily commute to work...

City Hall renovation continuing

The spectacular restoration of City Hall's facade continues; recently an enormous mobile crane was on site to do some heavy lifting, requiring a block of northbound Water Street to be shut down for several days.

The clock tower has gotten new backing (appears to be concrete but it's hard to tell from 300 feet below) in anticipation of its new terra cotta facade. Some of the brick substructure of the engaged mini-towers appears to have been put back up. At street level, the job site is an ever-shifting warehouse of pieces of terra cotta trim; thousands of them are being replaced as part of the project.

A recent Journal-Sentinel article notes some concerns about the matching of the terra cotta and brick colors.

The Terrace Bar

The Terrace Bar, a tiny infill building that went up in 2003, closed its doors a while back. It's not very surprising. The flashy, cooly modern interior was distinctly at odds with the worn-wood look and casual, raucous atmosphere of the Water Street bar district; it might have done better a few blocks east among Milwaukee Street's hip, trendy dance clubs. The titular rooftop terrace sounds like a nice idea, but in actuality it's kind of an afterthought to the building -- narrow, cramped, removed from the street, not much of a view. And on top of all that, they didn't serve food.

The building's construction also appears to have worsened the tilt of Fitzgibbon's Pub next door to alarming levels.

The Terrace Bar building is slated to re-open as Tequila Rita's, which I'm sure will be a very respectable establishment! Only time will tell if the hypnotic color-changing lights will return:

Terrace Bar at night

Terrace Bar at night

At Water & Juneau, a corner long inhabited by a grungy parking lot is about to be built up as The Residences on Water, a mixed-use building with condos and a hotel:

The Residences On Water

The Residences on Water

This building could start the transformation of the bar district into an urban strip that includes both sides of the street. It certainly will improve the looks of the desolate eastern side of the street.

Exploratory drilling on the site has been going on for several days in preparation for excavation.

Park East Freeway land

So far, infill in the Park East has been starting at the edges, leaving a vast void in the center. The Journal-Sentinel reports a debate between city officials who want to use public money to jumpstart development in the corridor, and owners of existing businesses who don't want potential competition to get a tax-funded leg up.

Park East Square sign

Further north, in the vacant fields where the freeway once ended, signs appeared recently announcing a development called Park East Square -- "two hotels, 400 residential units." Renderings show an ambitious and highly urban development of low- and mid-rise buildings lining the street edges.

Pfister & Vogel Tannery

Across the street, the old Pfister & Vogel Tannery complex remains standing, largely untouched. A few work crews have poked around it in recent months, at least one from a board-up company, and possibly another from environmental remediation.

Pfister & Vogel water tower

Enterprising grafitti artists, meanwhile, have yet again tagged the water tower on top of the complex, just a month or two after the last round of tags was covered over with gray paint. The water tower is shown as being preserved in the proposed North End development, which will otherwise level the Pfister & Vogel buildings.

The new condominiums look exciting (as always, I am totally in favor of new, urban-density residential development in the city), though I will deeply mourn the loss of the brawny, articulated brick facade of the Pfister & Vogel main building.

The Flatiron

Lastly, the Flatiron Park East is well into construction; another story has gone up since I shot this photo a few weeks ago. The project makes the most of a tight, oddly shaped site, and even utilizes the existing alley for its garage access -- avoiding one of those annoying curb cuts.

All in all, an amazing amount of urban development happening in a small area that needs it.