When Tim Gokhman, managing director of New Land Enterprises
, first set out to construct Ascent
-- a hybrid mass timber building at 700 E. Kilbourn Ave. in downtown Milwaukee -- his primary reason for wanting to pursue the project was simple aesthetics.
As the 25-story luxury apartment building began to welcome its first tenants on Friday – getting a firsthand look at the building constructed from concrete and European white spruce – Gokhman was focused on the details, mainly the things that will make residents of the 259-unit structure, designed by Korb + Associates Architects, feel at peace in their new home.
As of Thursday, 100 of those apartments had already been leased. And, 15 tenants were already slated to move on Friday – about five days ahead of the grand opening for the world’s tallest hybrid mass timber building.
“The primary driver originally was aesthetics,” but it goes deeper than that, Gokhman said. “The heavy timber buildings that you have in the Third Ward – people love those. People go in and they see the exposed wood, and they’re like 'that’s amazing.'’’
“Why do people have that reaction?” asked Gokhman.
The short answer, he says, is biophilia – the desire to be close to nature or things that remind us of the natural world. In this case wood.
“And science tells us that people feel better, perform better, recover better in biophilic environments,” he added.
That desire to have the building’s interiors, not just its structure, reflect nature can be seen throughout the tower – from tile floors designed to look like wood to the exposed wooden beams and ceilings present in the living and sleeping spaces of each apartment. Even the hallways are covered by a rich, forest green wallpaper that looks likes layers of impressionistic pine trees.
That desire to include biophilic design elements at the entry of the building even led to a last-minute re-design of the lobby, Gokhman noted.
“The original design had terrazzo floors, and metal ceilings and it was really out of touch with the entire ethos of the building, so we had to work with the design team to reimagine it,” Gokman said.
In addition to the wood-grain ceramic tiling, earth tone furniture, and wood paneling, the lobby’s fireplace will have a textural metal tiling that almost looks like tree bark. There will also be a long planter box filled with live trees that will be kept hale and hearty thanks to a hidden watering and drainage system. Behind the main concierge desk there will be a ‘green wall’ covered in plantings.
Rest and recreation
A peek at the upper floors provided a view of one the building’s penthouse-style apartments on the 11th
floor. At just under 2,000 square feet, a three-bedroom unit provides breathtaking views of the East Town neighborhood’s historic buildings, as well as Lake Michigan.
On the 7th
floor contractors were still working on the stately lap pool, which has windows that can open to the outdoors for a bit of lake breeze, a spacious sauna, and a towering, tiled wash-off shower. There will also be a bar.
Wisconsin,” Gokhman said.
In the neighboring gym area, which has two rooms – one for weights and workout equipment, another one for spinning bikes and floor exercises — there is a balcony that will be covered in turf where folks can workout alfresco when the weather is warm enough.
On the 25th
floor, which wasn’t ready for viewing on Thursday, there will be two clubhouses, a private rooftop bar, coworking spaces, golf simulators, and a game room.
A proud moment
Now that the building is welcoming its first residents, Gokhman said he is immensely proud to be providing something that is “literally world class” to both tenants and the city of Milwaukee as a whole.
“For Milwaukee, it is really special to be able to set a world record here, and have constant international and national attention on the city. Because the city has already led the way. I mean they didn’t have to approve this,” Gokhman said. “For the people that live here, it is amazing to have a building that packs technology, sustainability, user experience and beauty all into one building.”
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