The Cafe Hollander in Tosa will close for 11 days in January for a touch-up.
The Cafe Hollander in Tosa will close for 11 days in January for a touch-up. (Photo:

Tosa Hollander will close for updates

Lowlands Restaurant Group announced today that the Cafe Hollander, at 7677 W. State St. in Tosa Village, will close from Jan. 2 to 13 for a quick refresh.

Seems like yesterday that the place opened to a hungry west side crowd, but that was, in fact, in 2009.

The riverfront cafe will undergo upgrades much like the original location on Downer Avenue got this past autumn.

"We’ve been planning an update in Tosa for a while and with the Village streetscaping project nearing completion, the timing just made sense," said Dan Herwig, director of brand and marketing at Lowlands Group, in a statement.

"We’re excited to emerge this spring with an updated look inside and a re-energized Village right outside our front door."

Herwig is referring to the spit and polish that Tosa Village has been undergoing this year, getting new decorative pavers, more decorative lighting and a more pedestrian-friendly design that aims to slow traffic along State Street and the village streets that intersect. The plan also included some back-in-only angle parking, of which many folks have been debating the merit.

Inside the newly refurbished Hollander, Herwig says the cafe will have refinished floors, a reconfigured bar area, 31 draught lines (up from 23, and including a nitro line), some new seating options (just don't do anything to obscure kids' view of the passing trains, please), kitchen and bar equipment upgrades and mechanical improvements.

"While it was a painful summer for many of the businesses here, we see the long-term benefits this project will bring to the Village," said Herwig, "which is precisely why we’re making this investment when we are. In our minds, the Village is just starting to be what it’s capable of becoming, and we’re happy to play a role in its transformation."

The improvements coincide, too, with news that the Chancery next door will be transformed into a Jose's Blue Sombrero, though the timeline for that project is still being ironed out.

In the me…

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett declared yesterday "Gina Bianchi Day" in the city.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett declared yesterday "Gina Bianchi Day" in the city. (Photo: Tiffany Bianchi)

French Immersion principal honored by France and - surprise! - Milwaukee

On Tuesday night, Milwaukee French Immersion School Principal Gina Bianchi was honored for her work at this MPS school – which exceeds expectations according to its most recent DPI report card – by the French government.

At a ceremony at the school – located in the former Steuben Junior High at 2360 N. 52nd St. – Bianchi was presented with the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques (Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms) Tuesday by the French Consulate Denis Quenelle – on behalf of French national education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem – during the school's winter concert.

Bianchi has been principal at the school – where she got her start as a teacher – for three years. MFIS was established in 1978 and has been located in a few buildings since. It is the state’s only French immersion school.

According to MPS, The Palmes Academiques is a national order of France for distinguished academic figures in the world of culture and education. The order was established in 1808 by Emperor Napoleon. Bianchi was nominated by Anne Leplae, executive director of Alliance Francaise de Milwaukee, who also is a recipient of the award.

"(Ms. Bianchi's) passion for French language and culture as well as for teaching is evident as soon as you meet her," wrote Leplae in her nomination letter.

And in a surprise turn of events, Mayor Tom Barrett also appeared at the ceremony and declared yesterday "Gina Bianchi Day" in Milwaukee.

Tres awesome. Félicitations, Madame Bianchi!

The Milwaukee Public Library board is considering three proposals for a new mixed-use library development on Locust Street and King Drive.
The Milwaukee Public Library board is considering three proposals for a new mixed-use library development on Locust Street and King Drive.

Library board will consider three proposals for new King Library

Three proposals for new mixed-used developments – including a new library – on the site of the King Library, on Locust Street at King Drive, are being considered by the board of the Milwaukee Public Library.

A fourth proposal was submitted by Milwaukee's Vangard Development Group but is not being considered due a lack of detail in the proposed housing component according to the library's Sam McGovern-Rowen, adding that the design was not scaled to the actual site and was actually a conceptual image used in a design charette for a proposed building on Hadley and King.

According to Ald. Nik Kovac, who is a member of the board, the library board will discuss the proposals at its meeting on Tuesday and may even vote to select one at that time.

Here are some details on the three that are still under consideration:

Proposal #1

Development Team:
Harambee Great Neighborhood Initiative
Riverworks Development Corporation
Horizon Development Group
American Design

  • 15,508-square foot library
  • 37 mixed-income apartments
  • Affordable housing tax credit financed
  • 46 library parking spaces (4 lower level)
  • 25 resident parking spaces (lower level)

Proposal #2

Development Team:
Young Development Group, LLC
JLA Architects
Gorman & Company, Inc.

  • 17,000-square foot library
  • 1,400-square foot retail space
  • 44 market rate apartment units
  • Partially financed with New Markets Tax Credits
  • 51 library parking spaces (23 above ground and 28 underground)
  • 45 resident underground parking spaces

Proposal #3

Development Team:
Royal Capital LLC
Engberg Anderson Architects

  • 17,500-square foot library
  • 38 mixed income apartment units
  • Affordable housing tax credit financed
  • 51 library parking spaces (28 above ground, 23 underground)
  • 40 resident parking spaces (underground)

Proposal #4 (no longer under consideration)

Development Team:
Vanguard Group
Korb & Associates Architects
JCP Construction

  • 17,500-square foot library
  • Partially financed by New Markets Tax Credits
The Wisconsin Gas Flame will soon get a boost from new technology.
The Wisconsin Gas Flame will soon get a boost from new technology.

A Downtown beacon will shine brighter starting Dec. 7

A Milwaukee icon is about to shine a little brighter on the Downtown skyline.

On Wednesday, Richard H. Driehaus and Chicago-based M & J Wilkow, Ltd., owners of the Milwaukee Gas Light Building, at 626 E. Wisconsin Ave., will flip the switch on a newly completed lighting upgrade that will cause the weather-forecasting flame atop the building to burn more brightly.

The 1930 Art Deco building was designed by Milwaukee’s Eschweiler & Eschweiler architectural firm, which had its offices around the corner on Mason Street, and also designed this warehouse that I featured in an Urban Spelunking story this morning.

According to a statement issued by Wangard Investment Real Estate, which manages the building, the owners, "have taken advantage of advances in LED technology and upgraded the ... flame-shaped light that crowns the 20-story building.

"Thanks to a more sophisticated LED system, significantly more dynamic lighting schemes will be projected on the building’s upper floors. The unlimited light colors and patterns include the option to animate the flame-shaped light so it appears lit by gas instead of LED lights. While the building will feature a new lighting pattern, the flame will continue as it has for generations to serve as a weather beacon indicating the forecast by its color and flicker."

The lighting project was undertaken by MainStage Theatrical, Visual Terrain and Faith Technologies.

Technology will allow the 21-foot flame – it was added to the top of the building in 1956 – to be controlled autonomously using data from 11 weather stations around the city, which will determine the color of the flame, according to the now age-old Milwaukee stanza:

When the flame is red, it's warm weather ahead.
When the flame is gold, watch out for cold.
When the flame is blue, there's no change in view.
When there's a flickering flame, expect snow or rain.

"The Gas Light building is a tremendous historic legacy," said Driehaus. "Old buildings tell us where we cam…