Additional phases of Avenir Apartments set to move forward

Will add 146 residential units to downtown Milwaukee block

The Avenir Apartments.
The Avenir Apartments.

Milwaukee County leaders are preparing a new development agreement that would allow for the final two phases of the Avenir Apartments project to move forward, potentially bringing another 146 residential units to downtown Milwaukee.

Avenir’s first phase, located at 1437 N. Jefferson St. on formerly county-owned land, consists of 104 residential units and 14,600 square feet of retail space. The next two phases would be developed by Kirkland, Washington-based Weidner Apartment Homes.

The new agreement would give ownership of the remaining vacant land to an affiliate of Weidner. In turn, Weidner would partner with Wauwatosa-based Wangard Partners Inc. to develop the next two phases.

Wangard was the developer of the first phase of Avenir, and also sold it to Weidner in late 2018 for $22.3 million.

“We’re looking for a strategy where everyone can move on,” said Aaron Hertzberg, Milwaukee County economic development director.

Hertzberg wouldn’t say when the new agreement might be made final.

In order for that to happen, Milwaukee County first had to dissolve its initial development agreement on the project, which was reached over a decade ago. The county’s Board of Supervisors on Thursday gave their seal of approval to dissolving that agreement.

The County Board action was only advisory, since County Executive Chris Abele has the authority to sell any county-owned land that isn’t zoned as parkland, Hertzberg said. He added the request was brought before County Board members to get their feedback.

According to a news release, Weidner expects to close on the purchase of the remaining vacant land before the end of 2019. Wangard expects to select a construction contractor within the next 30 days.

“We greatly appreciate the hard work by Milwaukee County in advancing this important development, which will bring new jobs to area residents,” Stu Wangard, chairman and chief executive officer of Wangard, said in the release. “The Avenir will also help weave together the fabric of this great neighborhood, which is within easy walking distance of many fine amenities.”

A related entity of Wangard Partners has a minority interest in phase two and is the lender on the phase three land, according to the release.

The block where the apartments are located is part of the former Park East freeway corridor. This site and others were opened up for development when the freeway spur was torn down, which began in 2002.

Weidner has been in the business of buying up residential properties in the Milwaukee area going back to at least 2017. That year, the company acquired the Arbor Ridge Apartments, Sunset Ridge Apartments and St. James Place Apartments complexes.

In late 2018, it also purchased the 243-unit River House Apartments for $58 million.

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.