Officials who panned earlier plan clear way for brewpub

Port Plan Commission approves latest iteration of controversial development on former city-owned marina lot

THE NEWEST ITERATION of the Inventors Brewpub design was approved by the Port Washington Plan Commission May 18, clearing the way for the building, which will contain a brewery, restaurant, event space and offices, to be constructed. This rendering by Striegel Agacki Studio shows the north side of the building along Washington Street.
Ozaukee Press staff

Inventor’s Brewpub received its final design approval last week from the Port Washington Plan Commission, which just a month earlier rejected a revised plan for the project.

Commission members who last month said the new design was not true to the original plan for the building and didn’t reflect the prominence of the location, said the revised plan restores the integrity of the structure.

“I think it’s a substantial improvement,” City Engineer Roger Strohm, a member of the commission, said.

Mayor Ted Neitzke, chairman of the commission, added, “I’m happy you were able to find efficiencies in other areas. I appreciate the significant add-backs. This more reflects the original building, site and operating plan.”

Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, noted that the second-story windows on the building were altered — on the west side they are larger and on the east side they were made more vertical — fiber cement panels between the windows were removed and landscaping planters were added.

The height of the building was reduced by three feet, something previously proposed, Harris said, noting it was a change that commission members approved in April.

Commission member Mike Ehrlich, an architect, said he especially liked improvements made along the Washington Street side of the building.

“It feels a little more inviting,” he said. “The fact you put back the canopy makes a lot of sense.”

Several commission members made suggestions for minor changes, such as adding muntins to some of the windows and matching the size of a window on the northeast side of the building to others nearby.

Inventors owner Adam Draeger said after the meeting that the approval will allow him to order the steel and other materials that need to be fabricated for the project and for work to proceed on schedule so the new brewpub can open in spring 2024.

“This was the big domino to drop,” he said. “We tried to incorporate all the commission’s comments (from the April meeting).

“I’m super excited.”

The commission approved the revised building design plan on a 5-1 vote, with Kyle Knop dissenting and Chad Mach abstaining.

Knop, who has previously voted against the plan, said he dissented to remain consistent while Mach said he abstained because he occasionally works at the brewpub.

Inventors is planning to build a two-story building with a 9,000-square-foot brewery, bar and restaurant, 3,750-square-foot event space and 9,000 square feet of office space in the former parking lot north of the marina’s north slip.

The property had previously been proposed for the Blues Factory, which would have included a performance space, restaurant, banquet facility and a museum honoring the Wisconsin Chair Co. and Paramount Records, which brought some of the country’s pre-eminent blues artists to the area to record music.

But development of the parking lot proved controversial, with some people arguing that lakefront property was too valuable to use for commercial purposes.

Proponents of the Blues Factory argued that it will turn an underused parking lot into a valuable asset that would spur further lakefront development.

Plans for the Blues Factory fell through, but in January 2022 Draeger and Gertjan van den Broek of TBF Inc., which owns the property and is constructing the brewpub, announced plans to construct a new Inventors at the site.

The project was slated to break ground last June, but supply chain issues postponed that timeline.

Work to stabilize the site began earlier this year, and continued as Inventors came back to the city with a modified building plan, saying the original design was not feasible due to changing economic conditions as well as financial restrictions and practical considerations.

Commission members nixed that plan last month and made it clear that unless it was revised so the building largely mimiced the design previously approved, the project would not get the go-ahead from the city.

“To me it’s not a lifetime design,” Neitzke said at the time. “I don’t believe we should put up a building that doesn’t meet the highest standards in one of the best spots literally in the country.

“These adjustments don’t make the building better.”

Draeger and van den Broek said they were commited to the project and said they were willing to work with the city to create a project that both sides could live with.


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