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The Bucyrus Foundation is making a historic investment in its legacy in the city the company called home for nearly 120 years.
Foundation and other project leaders announced a $2 million gift to the City of South Milwaukee to enable two projects to help transform the city’s downtown: $1.5 million toward the renovation of the now city-owned property at 1919 12th Ave., and $500,000 toward the development of a city-owned public space at 11th and Madison Avenues, currently home to the South Milwaukee Downtown Market and other community events.
The building will be named the Bucyrus Club, as it was during eight-plus decades under the company’s ownership of the property. It will feature a premier banquet facility operated by Skyline Catering Inc., and the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum LLC. The public space will also pay homage to the Bucyrus name.
"The Bucyrus Foundation is proud to make this contribution honoring South Milwaukee’s proud past and promising future, and the legacy and heritage of Bucyrus. We were honored to call South Milwaukee home for more than 100 years. This gift will ensure generations to come know the story of Bucyrus and the equipment thousands of South Milwaukee residents built, to build the world,” said Tim Sullivan, Bucyrus Foundation Chairman.
Sullivan continued: "This is also an investment in the future of South Milwaukee. I personally am excited to see how these projects will bring new life to the downtown area and serve as catalysts for even more investment in the city. I am hopeful the Bucyrus Foundation will continue to partner in this work, with additional investments in the redevelopment of South Milwaukee for years to come."
The South Milwaukee Common Council approved purchasing the building for $560,000 in February.
Under the deal, the city will use a combination of foundation funds and other sources -- including tax incremental district revenue and anticipated economic development grants -- to fund an over $3 million renovation of the space. Skyline Catering will also fund improvements, and provide rent to the city. Construction is expected to begin this spring, with a partial opening planned for Dec. 18, 2020 -- the 100-year anniversary of Bucyrus opening its first employee club there.
“This is a transformational project for our downtown, and our city,” South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks said. “It will bring our proud past to life, telling the story of Bucyrus, its workers and their impact on the city and the world in a really unique way. We are incredibly proud of our heritage in South Milwaukee, and we need to do a better job telling that story. This does that, and more, for generations to come.”
“We could not do this alone. That is why I am so thankful for partners like the Bucyrus Foundation, South Milwaukee Industrial Museum and Skyline Catering. Without them, this project would never become reality.”
The project will deliver a combination banquet space and museum to downtown South Milwaukee, as Skyline Catering, owned by South Milwaukee residents Ernie & Kathy Wunsch, aims to bring a variety of events, ranging from small community groups and wedding receptions to corporate events of more than 400 to the Bucyrus Club. The club will eventually be open to the public for Friday fish fries and special events as well.
“A huge and humbled thank you must go to the city and the Bucyrus Foundation for their forward thinking, heritage preservation and complete support of the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum and Skyline to jumpstart what we think will be a thriving downtown South Milwaukee,” the Wunsch’s said. "Skyline Catering and its entire team are thrilled to bring its brand of food, service and event planning to South Milwaukee and in the process, to create upwards of 50 new food and beverage jobs.
"We want to create a place that will generate buzz, a place that will be the catalyst for other downtown South Milwaukee business owners to take a chance, a place that can bring the heritage of South Milwaukee back, and, most of all, a place of our own that we can call home."
The Bucyrus Club will also be the new home to the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum, and will feature rare artifacts, models, images and other items from the collection formerly located on the Bucyrus campus. The museum has been searching for a permanent home for several years, as it displays its collection in various exhibitions across the area, currently at the Milwaukee County Historical Society and recently at the Milwaukee School of Engineering Grohmann Museum, South Milwaukee Library and South Milwaukee City Hall.
“We are extremely grateful to the Bucyrus Foundation and the City of South Milwaukee for their ongoing support in helping us to re-establish a permanent home for the historical artifacts and archives in the Bucyrus collection,” said Bob Jelinek, co-founder and Chairman of the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum. “We look forward to showcasing the partnerships that existed during the early development of the city and company in our displays, as well as celebrating the rich industrial history of other prominent and historic companies that called South Milwaukee home.”
Furthermore, Bucyrus Foundation funds will go a long way to developing a one-of-a-kind public space with a manufacturing heritage spin. Planning for the public space at 11th and Madison -- a block away from the proposed Bucyrus Club -- is expected to begin in the coming weeks and will include stakeholders like the South Milwaukee Downtown Market and other community partners.
In February, the city council voted to engage Saiki Design, a Madison-based landscape architecture firm, in the planning effort. Construction of the public space is expected in 2021. Project details will be shaped following a robust public comment process, although the public space is expected to include permanent facilities to support special events and daily users, as well as historical features evoking the manufacturing history of the city.
“Creation of this destination public space is an important part of this deal, and we thank the Bucyrus Foundation for their generous investment,” Brooks said. “I can’t wait to work with all of our partners -- and the community as a whole -- to breathe new life into this part of our city center.”