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The Barden is coming this spring
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The Barden is coming this spring

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A multi-million dollar restoration project taking place at one of downtown’s most iconic buildings remains on schedule to open next spring.

The nearly 22,000-square-foot commercial building — located on the northeast corner of Seventh Avenue and 58th Street — will be occupied on the first floor by Public Craft Brewing Co., with a wedding-banquet venue planned for the second story.

It will be branded as The Barden, preserving the name of the original occupant: Barden’s Department Store.

In January, the 1911 building was purchased by Witico Development Corp. from the city of Kenosha for $1 with conditions of a $3.5 million redevelopment.

The building sat mostly vacant since 1985 when Barden’s Department Store relocated across the street into the Alford Building, 702 58th St. Omega Candle Factory operated at the site until its 2006 closure.

“We’re delighted,” said Mike Wimmer, chief executive officer of Witico. “It’s been very gratifying to take one of these iconic, historic structures that’s been dead and buried for 15 years and bring it back to life.”

Public Craft Brewing Co., 716 58th St., is located one block west of its future address and is in dire need of expansion, according to Public founder Matt Geary.

The new location will nearly quadruple Public’s brewing capacity and include a full kitchen and live entertainment venue.

Geary said the plan is to be open in time for Kenosha’s annual Craft Beer Week in May 2020.

“To be able to do something like this in a building with such history and presence is exciting,” Geary said. “Our goal is to make it a destination for people who come downtown.”

The new location will be large enough to accommodate bands without compromising the traditional, craft brewery experience.

“Right now, we’re busting at the seams,” Geary said. “When we have music, there’s no place to go. The music is on top of the bar, and that’s all that can be happening at one time.

“The new (entertainment) space will be separate from the bar, with the ability to divide it off completely if we want to.

“We’ll be able to do a lot more music without interfering with people that want to come in and have a beer and conversation.”

Wimmer said the project is slightly behind schedule due to the historical preservation and extensive exterior work.

The building’s interior was demolished to make way for exterior work on the front facade, windows and brick.

Witico is seeking permission to remove a dilapidated, interior mezzanine to accommodate huge brewing tanks, according to Wimmer.

“Largely, the building is going to look the same,” Wimmer said. “It’s just going to be repaired and strengthened so it can last another 100 years.”

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