Another developer tries to launch project at long-vacant Harbor District riverfront site

11-story residential building planned

Admiral's Wharf site in Walker's Point.
Admiral's Wharf site in Walker's Point.

Last updated on August 28th, 2019 at 05:44 pm

A new 11-story, 133-unit residential building is being proposed for a long-vacant riverfront site, located in Milwaukee’s Harbor District, where several other proposed developments have failed to move forward during the last decade.

The application is to establish a planned development zoning district for the Admiral’s Wharf site, a vacant lot located at 234 S. Water St. along the Milwaukee River, just south of the Historic Third Ward. The proposal was submitted by Ryan Bedford, executive vice president of developments at Waukesha-based Bedford Development.

Bedford said in a phone interview the roughly $41 million project will have three floors of parking, about 3,600 square feet of office space and top-floor amenities such as a fitness room, rooftop club room with patio and a rooftop dog run. There will also be on the building’s first floor a dog washroom and possibly a kayak storage or rental facility, which would face the Milwaukee River.

The office space would technically be on the second floor, but it would be at street level for Pittsburgh Avenue, which borders the site to the north. It would be used as shared workspace, particularly for companies that have corporate headquarters somewhere in the Milwaukee suburbs but still want a presence downtown. Bedford said he expects the space would allow for five to seven different tenants. The office users would also have access to the rooftop amenities.

As for the residential units, Bedford expects to charge somewhere between $2.15 to $2.20 per square foot.

Bedford said this project would be a “key factor” in continuing the development momentum along the river further south of downtown.

“People are always drawn towards water and this site is the next step in the redevelopment of the riverfront,” he said.

The project also calls for a new segment of Milwaukee’s Riverwalk.

Bedford Development previously developed the Walker’s Landing apartments, located at 2070 N. Riverboat Road in Milwaukee’s Beerline B district near downtown. And through its property-management wing, Kendal Group Ltd., it also partnered in developments such as the Junior House Lofts in Walker’s Point, Dwell Bay View on South Kinnickinnic Avenue and the Manseau Flats in Ashwaubenon, Bedford said.

While the previous projects Bedford has worked on primarily targeted millennials looking to live in or near downtown, the proposed 11-story building will be more targeted at empty nesters. As a result, the project will be characterized by higher-end finishes and appliances, as well as a “home-style apartment,” said Bedford.

“I think there’s going to be a demand in that area of the market,” he said.

Bedford is working on the project with VJS Construction Services. The property is currently owned by entities affiliated with the Pewaukee-based contractor.

Bailey Copeland, director of real estate services with VJS, said her firm would be the general contractor on the project. She added that if the project moves forward, the property would be sold to a different entity, Admiral’s Wharf LLC.

The proposed change in zoning needs approval by the City Plan Commission and Common Council members.

Bedford said the project would be able to secure its needed approvals by November at the earliest. He added he hopes to have all financing for the project secured by the end of the year in order to start construction sometime in 2020.

The Admiral’s Wharf site has been eyed for several other residential developments in the past that never moved forward. BizTimes reported in 2017 that Milwaukee architect and developer Peter Renner was planning to build a seven-story, 72-unit condominium building at the site. The $50 million project was called South Water Condominiums, but never moved forward. Before that, developer David Winograd had the land under contract and was planning to build a 12-story, 164-unit apartment tower at the site, but dropped his option to purchase the property. Before that, a developer planned a project for the site, called Rivianna, that would have had three 15-story towers with apartments, a hotel and first floor retail space.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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