Developers, local officials celebrate ‘topping off’ of Trade Hotel

Construction workers affix an American Flag to the final beam for the Trade Hotel MKE, which is being constructed next to the Fiserv Forum in the Deer District on Wednesday. (Cara Spoto/Biztimes)

Looking ahead to a March 2023 opening date, executives with developer North Central Group (NCG), Findorff construction, local officials, and dozens of trades men and women gathered on Wednesday to celebrate a milestone in the construction of the Trade Hotel MKE.

Dodging both the heat of the sun and rain drops from a passing storm, those who shaped the building – and local officials who helped lay the groundwork for the project to come to fruition – came together to sign the final steel beam to be put in place on the 205-room boutique at the corner of Juneau and Vel R. Phillips avenues in the Deer District.

“This is really about celebrating how things are made. This is about celebrating all the many people whose work went into creating the Trade and building the Trade. We are really so happy and so thankful for all of their hard work and participation,” said Andy Inman, chief development officer of Madison-based NCG, noting that the hotel is named for the trades people who helped to build Milwaukee.

“The Trade is about telling the story of how Milwaukee was made. Milwaukee grew from the great tradesmen and women – the industries that built Milwaukee,” Inman added. “When guests come to the Trade – come to the city of Milwaukee – they will see, physically, in the building, how the city of Milwaukee was built. They will also experience that warm touch of Midwestern hospitality.”

Milwaukee’s ‘living room’

Speaking during a groundbreaking ceremony in September, Inman traced the hotel’s origins back to a conversation with Milwaukee Bucks leaders two years ago.

On Wednesday, Peter Feigin, president of the Milwaukee Bucks, harkened back to that initial conversation with the Lenz family, which founded NCG.

“(As we were looking for development partners), one of our limited partners said why don’t you go meet the Lenz family. I said ‘sure.’ In maybe 15-20 minutes, we kind of agreed with each other, had a handshake on general terms, and in great Milwaukee, Wisconsin fashion, the rest is history,” Feigin said.

Addressing the crowd of builders, Milwaukee Mayor Cavlier Johnson, said the hotel would act as another draw for the increasingly magnetic Deer District.

“(The Deer District) is realizing its full potential as a destination location. It continues to add more and more to the life of Milwaukee,” Johnson said. “(It) really has become a central gathering point for this city, basically the living room for this city.”

Describing himself as a “die-hard Bucks fan,” Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley called the trade a “championship caliber type of project.”

“I believe, and I think the mayor would agree, that Milwaukee is experiencing a renaissance. This is an awakening of our downtown,” Crowley said.

Vertically inclined

In addition to its 205 guest rooms, the nine-story Trade Hotel will have a two-story VIP suite that will have its own private access, located on a portion of the building’s 8th and 9th floors. The building will also have more than a dozen junior suites.

Leading a tour of the building, which sits ready to receive its windows, façade and interior finishes, Erik Sande, a project manager with NCG, showed members of the media where the first-floor lobby, sports bar and restaurant, as well as a second-floor lounge designed to have a more relaxed atmosphere, will be located. The building will also feature a rooftop restaurant and lounge that will include views of the city. Retail space will be located at the southwest corner of the first floor.

While the entire hotel will be geared towards taller folks – aka basketball players – the 4th Floor, loosely dubbed the “NBA Floor” will be specifically designed with the vertically gifted in mind, Sande said. Shower heads will be at eight feet he noted, and the doorways will be higher as well to keep players from having to duck.

In addition to the 214 tons of steel and 7,500-cubic yards of concrete that have gone into the building so far, there will also be 30,000-square-feet of windows and a 4,000-pound pizza oven that will be lifted to the fourth floor .

“When a new hotel is celebrated, credit is given – and it duly should be just like it was today – to the developer, to the contractors, and to the architects and engineers, but really when you think about it, it takes hands, it takes sweat, it takes backs, it takes hearts, and passion, to build a building,” Sande said. “Companies don’t build buildings, people build buildings.”

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