In the summer of 2013, Christopher Adams, principal of Dominion Properties, was attending a fundraiser for Doors Open Milwaukee at Bill Nasgovitz’s home in Shorewood, and the two started talking about historic preservation.
Nasgovitz, chairman of Heartland Advisors, had purchased the 9,000-square-foot Goll Mansion, 1550 N. Prospect Ave., on the East Side of Milwaukee the year before from Associated Bank for $835,000.
Built in 1898, the historic home is one of three mansions left on Prospect Avenue. Nasgovitz didn’t have the time to do the preservation work needed on the home and decided to partner with Dominion Properties, which purchased half the interest in the property in March 2014.
“Our original intention was to build a five- to six-story apartment building behind the mansion and fully renovate the mansion into apartments on the second and third floors,” Adams said.
The project would have been similar to the Sage Developments Dominion Properties have done on Jackson and Prospect on Milwaukee’s East Side.
Adams quickly learned it would take a much larger apartment tower to yield the profits needed to restore the mansion.
“It needs so much work everywhere that in order to be feasible, you need to do a project that is big,” Adams said. “The house is no longer going to work as an office building or a six family, it’s too worn out.”
The house was converted to offices in 1949, which it was used for until three months ago, when leases were not renewed in anticipation of a sale, Adams said.
The property was put on the market and Madison Developer Chris Houden, with Palisade Properties Management LLC came forward with a $55 million plan that includes a 27-story 192-unit apartment tower behind the house.
Houden, who is working with Thomas Miller from Kahler Slater architectural firm, also plans to move the Goll house about 30 feet from its current location toward the street.
The move will be done by putting the house on tracks, moving it backwards, towards Lake Michigan, building a new foundation for the home closer to Prospect Avenue, and then moving the home onto its new foundation, Miller said.
“We will brace the building to hold it in place and the integrity of the building will be kept in place,” he said.
This is not the first time a developer has come forward with a proposal for the home.
The property was previously owned by New Land Enterprises LLP, which received Common Council approval in 2008 to build a 26-story, 35-unit condo tower that would have been attached to the Goll Mansion.
That project was controversial and opposed by some historic preservationists who said it would damage the historic integrity of the property and by some nearby condo residents who complained that the New Land tower would block their views.
The city’s Historic Preservation Commission will decide June 13, if the house can be relocated and stabilized.
Miller would like to move the house as soon as the commission makes its decision. Once the house is moved, there are several possibilities for the inside.
Houden submitted plans to the city calling for another four to eight apartments in the house. But Miller said the house could also be used for a commercial/leasing office or a restaurant. Owners will have to submit another certificate of appropriate application when they move forward with work inside of the house.
Regardless of use, the front portion of the house, which includes a grand staircase, will maintain its historic integrity, as will the third floor ball room.
Houden is scheduled to purchase the house by the end of July and from there, Dominion Properties will no longer be involved in the restoration of the house.
“It would have been nice to see this one through, but I know it is going to someone who is sensitive to the historic nature of the house,” Adams said. “This is the highest and best use for the property and a rare opportunity to save a house.”