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Exclusive: Checking in on the Grand Avenue Mall's transformation

Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 31, 2019

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee's Grand Avenue Mall is in the middle of a radical transformation, and TODAY'S TMJ4 got a peek of the progress inside.

The atrium used to house the bear on tightrope and fast food joints on the third floor, but has been completely gutted.

Escalators are out and new floors are in. “It's amazing that this was once the food court that we used to all come to as, you know, I'd come here in high school,” Graef Vice President Pat Kressin recalled.

“That is now being filled in with our future space.”

Graef, is an engineering, planning, and design firm now headquartered in a business park on Milwaukee’s west side. The company is moving that HQ to the revamped development downtown.

“You can see all the structural steel in. You can see all the decking in, the rebar,” Kressin explained. “It's all going to be poured next week. This space is going to be transformed into a totally different environment.”

Structures within the gutted space will start to go up quickly, and they’ll have to. Graef wants things completed by the end of the year, so employees can return to work after the Holidays and start in the new facility.

In a design capacity, the company has been heavily involved in the rebirth of downtown’s west side. Now, it will be a part of it in a different way.

“We've worked on a lot of landmark projects as engineers and planners and landscape architects over the city, but this is our first time you can actually go and point to them out the window,” Kressin shared. “Which is really just fantastic. I don't have to show a client a picture. I can just point or we can go walk over to it.”

He’s particularly excited about a walk-out deck that overlooks the intersection of Third and Wisconsin.

Developers are building a food hall on the lower level of the former mall. Co-owner and President of SURG Restaurant Group LLC, Omar Shaikh hopes that space will be up and running early next year.