MILWAUKEE — Inside 3rd Street Market Hall, amid the sounds of construction, Omar Shaikh sits alone at his brand new 360 bar, sending a text message and preparing for a meeting.
He promises it won't be long before other Milwaukeeans are sitting there, too.
"I'm not setting a date. I'm not doing that. I'm not even setting a month. But I'll say here — it will be this year. 100 percent," said Shaikh.
The Market Hall co-owner is cautious, and for good reason. They've already burned their phase one opening date several times, beat back again and again by pandemic-related issues.
Shaikh and business partner Josh Krsnak are waiting on an occupancy permit so they can get their vendors in. That, plus a few other odds and ends, should bring a phase one launch.
"First phase would be ten to 12 vendors [food], some kiosk spaces, a selfie museum in partnership with MIAD," said Shaikh.
Students from MIAD, the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, designed the 26 stalls of 3rd Street's selfie museum. If you've never been in once, it's basically a series of rooms where you take selfies.
3rd Street's selfie spaces are bold and colorful. Shaikh let TMJ4 see one near the entrance that's modeled after a dive bar bathroom.
"I don't think I've ever, in all of our travels, seen as anything as creative as all the stalls that they're creating," he said.
Shaikh and Krsnak have placed a priority on sourcing local, within 100 miles, for all of their food vendors and other sellers.
The cost to overhaul this first floor space of the old Shops of Grand Avenue? $11 million.
But they have more than 60 investors, and their two latest contributors are Milwaukee Brewer All-Star Christian Yelich and to the north, Green Bay wide receiver Randall Cobb.
"It's not like we pitched them to say hey, will you invest. Both these guys love the state, love the city. So it's really an honor when you have two MVP human beings that want to invest back in a project that's so important to Milwaukee," said Shaikh.
Randall Cobb told TMJ4 news in a press conference that he's been speaking with Shaikh about it on and off for months.
"To be a part of this and plant roots and be able to come back and find ways to continue to give back and to be a part of this community — I'll forever be grateful," said Cobb.
And you may see him at the Hall from time to time. According to Shaikh, they'll have spaces for athletes, so they can feel safe, as well as areas for CEOs.
But the venue, Shaikh says, is for everyone, so "all walks of like can come here and feel comfortable."
The 3rd Street Market Hall will include several Top Golf Swing Suites as well as a number of free games, including an area for gaming on consoles, like Play Station.