Developer restoring historic Lipps building

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:21 pm

A downtown Milwaukee building that once housed such tenants as Boston Store and a variety of fraternal organizations and unions will be renovated.
Old World Development, owned by Milwaukee developer Robert Joseph, will restore the Lipps Building, at the northwest corner of Highland Avenue and Old World Third Street.
The building was developed by John Lipps in 1878 to serve as a fraternal hall and to house the Lipps millinery business. The upper two floors of the three-story building have been unoccupied since 1948 and retain much of the original craftsmanship and materials of the original structure, notes Brian Miller of the Miller Architectural Group in Milwaukee.
Joseph has retained Miller’s firm for architectural and interior design services for the historic renovation project, which has already begun. The office spaces being prepared on the upper two floors are expected to be ready by this fall.
The first floor of the 15,000-square-foot building is occupied by Have a Nice Day Café. That portion of the structure will not be changed at this time.
Exterior renovations will include the replacement of the existing wood-enclosed staircase leading to the second floor with a glass-enclosed staircase and masonry entry alcove. That is on the Highland Avenue side of the building.
That staircase leads to a second-floor foyer, and from there a grand staircase leads to the third floor. A large glass skylight looms above the staircase.
The upper floors will retain all the original detailing, including wainscoting, solid-wood doors, transoms and metal ceilings.
The second floor will contain one suite with one large office area and additional smaller areas. The third floor will contain two suites carved from the original meeting hall spaces, featuring 18-foot-tall ceilings with metal panels and coves, and original windows and doors.
New mechanicals and electrical systems will be installed throughout. Deterioration of those systems was partly responsible for the building’s vacancy for the last 53 years.
That vacancy, Miller notes, is a huge advantage to the restoration. Had the building been occupied over the years, he said, it’s likely that the interior’s original materials would have been covered up or removed.
City records show the building to be currently assessed at $533,000, and that Joseph purchased it last October.
Joseph has primarily been a developer of new housing. Miller’s firm has worked on a variety of historic renovations, including the Grain Exchange Condominiums, the Cawker Building, the Gallun Tannery apartments, the The Storefront Brewery and Apartments on North Water Street, and the Pietsch Dye Works building at 826 N. Plankinton Ave., all in downtown Milwaukee.
April 27, 2001 SBT

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