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Better Days Ahead For Struggling Stretch of Milwaukee in Wicker Park?

By Alisa Hauser | November 1, 2013 7:12am
 There's several big changes coming to the 1200 block of North Milwaukee Avenue on the southern end of Wicker Park. Here's highlights.
Big Changes in 1200 Block of North Milwaukee Avenue
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WICKER PARK — In the next five years, Wicker Park's "southern gateway," just north of the pigeon-plagued Polish Triangle, will be "just as good" as the famous intersection at Milwaukee, North and Damen avenues, real estate experts say.

"The amount of new development, proximity to Blue Line [Division] subway, and we expect the [Polish] Triangle park to be improved," said David Schwartz, a broker with Essex Properties.

Schwartz is referring to the 1200 block of North Milwaukee in Wicker Park, where he's in negotiations with prospective new tenants for a 5,800-square-foot storefront at 1272 N. Milwaukee Ave., which has long been home to Diana Shoes.

At the end of November, the independently owned shoe store is relocating to the former Palm Terrace banquets at 1250 N. Milwaukee Ave.

 The exterior of the long-shuttered Palm Terrace Banquets was removed last spring to reveal an ornate terra cotta and brick facade at 1250 N. Milwaukee Ave.  
The exterior of the long-shuttered Palm Terrace Banquets was removed last spring to reveal an ornate terra cotta and brick facade at 1250 N. Milwaukee Ave.  
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

Schwartz said he's hoping to secure a fitness-related tenant or a restaurant "by the first half of next year" for the pre-1900 building, which he described as "architecturally fantastic."

Schwartz also is working to find a new tenant for 1232 N. Milwaukee Ave., which most recently was an H&R Block financial services center.

Diana Shoes' longtime manager Moy Arroyo said that the shoe store will merge with Stash, which opened in March in the old Palm Terrace banquets.

When the Palm Terrace's white and gold facade was removed last spring, it revealed an ornate terra cotta-and-brick exterior, which is being restored.

Across the street from Diana Shoes, the four-story former Wieboldt's Department store at 1275-1295 N. Milwaukee Ave., has just begun a multimillion dollar renovation project.

The building is part of a shopping center owned by development firm Centrum Partners LLC, which purchased the West Town Shopping Plaza in 2011 for $33 million. 

Centrum Partners recently received a Class L tax incentive which provides tax relief to help support a renovation of the historic Landmark building, said Centrum Vice President Larry Powers.

"We're very excited. We hope once our project is done it will change the gateway to Wicker Park so to speak. It's 200 linear feet of the block. The character of that stretch of Milwaukee is going to change dramatically," Powers said.

The shopping complex, which includes a Jewel, was recast as "Wicker Park Commons" in August.

Several tenants, such as Payless Shoes at 1281 N. Milwaukee Ave. and Oberweis at 1293 N. Milwaukee Ave., have closed in recent weeks, in a string of exits that began in July with the closure of a Blockbuster movie rental store.

On Sunday, a handwritten sign in the window of Payless Shoes read, "This location closed 4 Business."

Power confirmed Tuesday that a Pet Supplies Plus will move into a 9,000-square-foot space at 1295 N. Milwaukee Ave., and The Vitamin Shoppe, currently under construction, will replace Blockbuster.

Though not in the immediate future, For Site Optical at 1295 N. Milwaukee Ave., plans to relocate across the street to 1286 N. Milwaukee Ave. 

In addition to the Wicker Park Commons project, another Centrum-owned parcel at 1260 N. Milwaukee Ave, next to Tocco restaurant, was sold in August to Noah properties.

"We focus on larger-scale projects, it wasn't a great fit for us," said Powers of the sale to the development firm owned by Bart Przyjemski.

Centrum Partners also recently purchased two buildings at 1249-51 N. Milwaukee Ave., just south of the Wieboldt's building.

One of the buildings has a bright green fire escape in front and is not included in a city registry of significant historic properties, while the building at 1251 N. Milwaukee Ave. is included in the directory.

In August Powers told Crain's that the buildings, between Foot Locker and Bank of America "may need to be demolished."