Smooth sailing for marina brewpub plan

Port board praises design of bar, restaurant, entertainment venue planned for controversial lot

THE NORTH SIDE of the proposed Inventors Brewpub on Port Washington’s north harbor slip, as seen from Washington Street, is shown in this rendering by Striegel Agacki Studio. The building features an event space on the west (right) side, a brewpub on the east (left) side and a recessed entry. Offices would be located on the second floor.
Ozaukee Press staff

Plans for a new Inventors Brewpub on the north end of Port Washington’s north harbor slip — a parking lot once envisioned as the home of the Blues Factory — were unanimously approved Tuesday by the city’s Design Review Board.

They will now be sent to the Plan Commission for consideration at 6 p.m.  Thursday, Jan. 20.

“I think it’s a compelling design,” board member Jeremy Hartline, an architect,  said. 

A crowd of more than 30 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, although only two addressed the board. Both spoke in favor of the planned brewpub.

Ald. John Sigwart told the board he fought the city’s controversial decision to sell a marina area parking lot for the Blues Factory for 3-1/2 years and still believes the city should not have sold the land for development.

“That’s in the past,” he said, adding he believes the brewpub project is a good one.

“It’s the best project ever submitted to the city in those 50 years (he’s lived in the community),” Sigwart said. “It’s not the Blues Factory. It’s Inventors Brewpub 2.0 and an event hall.”

Sigwart said he had shown the design for the project to more than 20 people and had not heard a complaint about it.

Tracy Milkowski, who lives across from the proposed brewpub on Washington Street, said she knew when buying her home that something would be built on the Blues Factory land.

“We love progress, especially when it makes sense,” she said. “We’re happy. We think it’s a great project.”

The plan was presented by Adam Draeger, owner of Inventors, and architect Joel Agacki of Striegel Agacki Studio in Wauwatosa.

Draeger surprised the community at the start of the new year by announcing plans to build a new brewpub and event space at the former Blues Factory site, perhaps the most controversial lot in the city.

The controversy began when the city decided in 2014 to declare the parking lot surplus property and sell it for development, with officials saying a project there could serve as a catalyst for development throughout the downtown.

That decision, and a proposal to create the Blues Factory to pay homage to the Wisconsin Chair Co. that once stood on the parking lot property and its Paramount Records studio, split the city. Those opposed to the decision said the city should not sell publicly owned lakefront land for private use. They turned out at meetings in droves to try and reverse the decision, circulated petitions and ultimately voted out at least one alderman who supported the decision.   

Negotiations with developer Chris Long and later Gertjan van den Broek bogged down, and although van den Broek’s TBF Development purchased the property, the Blues Factory never came to fruition. 

Then Draeger announced on Dec. 31 plans to move his business from its current location in the Van Ells-Schanen American Legion hall to the new site, which will allow him to expand his brewery and add an event space that could host a variety of events, including business meetings, the indoor farmers market, concerts and wedding receptions.

He is working with van den Broek on the proposal. 

The 25,000-square-foot, two-story building would include a 9,000 square-foot brewery, bar and restaurant on the east side of the first floor and a 3,750-square-foot entertainment space that could accommodate as many as 350 people on the west side of the main floor.

Between the two sides would be an entry area that could be accessed from Washington Street or the north slip and harborwalk.

The second floor would have 9,000-square-feet of office space as well as a balcony area that could be used as a small event space or an extension of the main event space. An outdoor bar would also be on the second floor.

Because the building is long and has several different spaces, Agacki said, differing but complementary materials and designs will help set them off and break up the facade.

Those materials will create a warm, modern aesthetic, he said, adding these materials are found throughout the area and will help connect the building to the neighborhood.

They include brick, tongue-and-groove siding, standing seam weathering steel siding and a metal panel system for the entry.

“They say, ‘We’re two different spaces,’” Agacki said.

That mix of designs brought praise from Hartline, who said, “I like the playfullness of the different designs.”

The north side of the building will match the elevation of Washington Street, he noted. A ramp and stairs will be on the south side, which will be about 30 inches higher than the harborwalk.

The building complies with the 35-foot downtown height limit, Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, said, although a special exception will be required for a stairwell and a grain silo atop the structure.

A sign will be incorporated into the silo, Draeger said.  

There is no on-site parking, Harris said, adding that the downtown zoning code does not require this. Street parking is intended to accommodate downtown businesses.

Draeger said the new building will add about $5 million to the city’s tax base, and between 24 and 36 people will be employed at the business.

The Design Review Board is intended to look at the design of a project, while the Plan Commission will also look at such things as the site and operational plan.

Draeger said last week he hopes to break ground in late spring or early summer and open the new facility next spring.


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