Fromm Buys Downtown Dog Park Naming Rights and Announces Riverfront Taproom

In addition to buying the naming rights for a new riverfront dog park under I-794 – as first reported here last year – Fromm Nieman Brands, which owns Fromm Family Pet Foods and Foxtown Brewery in Mequon – has purchased the adjacent vacant lot for a new taproom, distillery, and restaurant.

The venue is expected to be a larger version of Foxtown’s Mequon location, which opened in 2019 on a former brewery site that still has its original subterranean lagering cellars.

Plans for the 28,000-square-foot, three-story taproom, distillery and restaurant development – to be called Foxtown Landing – include a large pet-friendly outdoor space adjacent to the river, a balcony and rooftop patio.

“This is a generational opportunity to reinvent a long dormant, underutilized, but highly visible area of Downtown into what will be a true destination that enhances Downtown’s quality of life and bridges the gap between the Historic Third Ward and Westown neighborhoods,” said Matt Dorner, economic development of Milwaukee Downtown BID #21, who is leading the dog park project, with Paul Schwartz, executive director of Milwaukee Public Market and Business Improvement District #2.

The 1.4-acre site – currently owned by Walkers Landing Associates – is located at 412 N. Plankinton Ave., at St. Paul Avenue, across the street from The Pritzlaff. It is just steps away from one of The Hop streetcar stops.

The lot was one of the early sites considered by The Tap Yard for its Downtown beer garden that ultimately opened this past summer at Schlitz Park.

“Fromm Family Pet Food has a widely respected reputation as a business leader, pet food innovator and community builder which they’ve built over five generations as a family-owned and operated company," said Schwartz.

"We’re thrilled to have them provide their leadership and vision as our title sponsor and are grateful for their investment in this legacy project.”

According to Schwartz, the new development could create an opportunity for the dog park to grow in size.

"It could very likely be expanded from the original site plan you saw given the private development," he told me. "Fromm’s experience in the pet world and understanding of the dog community has resulted in us being actively involved in conversations related to how their development could open up room for expanded space in the dog park. That would be a win-win for everyone. So it’s quite possible."

The off-leash dog park – designed by Downtown-based GRAEF – and adjacent Foxtown development, designed by Stephen Perry Smith Architects, will be connected by a new section of riverwalk nearly 400 feet long.

The city thought it was getting a dog park and now it’s getting a lot more.

“Milwaukee is rich in history, as is the Fromm brand and our family," said Fromm President Tom Nieman. "When we learned about the dog park project, we began exploring the larger opportunity to develop a true ‘dog district’ where people and their pets can gather along the river at the nexus of where the Historic Third Ward and Downtown meet.

“With dog ownership rapidly increasing in recent years in the greater Downtown area, we see this as a natural fit for us and a game changer for the City of Milwaukee.”

The sale of the naming rights to the dog park pushes that project closer to its fundraising goal, according to Dorner.

“We think this development will be a fantastic complement to the dog park and make it a true destination,” said Schwartz.

Bobby Tanzilo, Senior Editor/Writer OnMilwaukee