East North Avenue gets surge of development

In a three-block stretch of East North Avenue, between Oakland Avenue and Prospect Avenue, three apartment developments are under construction and a fourth is planned.

Combined, the projects will add 290 new residential units and 22,500 square feet of retail space to East North Avenue. That will bring a population boost to the neighborhood, which will benefit existing retailers in this commercial area in the heart of the city’s East Side neighborhood.

Milwaukee-based Joseph Property Development LLC is building two of the North Avenue projects. One is the redevelopment of the Prospect Mall property at 2217 N. Prospect Ave. The other is a project at the former Pizza Man site, northeast of Oakland and North Avenues. Pizza Man burned down in early 2010 and the site has been vacant ever since.

Joseph Property Development is owned by Robert Joseph, who lived on the East Side from 1992-2012.

“That’s my neighborhood,” he said.

Development at former Pizza Man site

The redevelopment of the Prospect Mall property is adding 52 apartments on top of the building, which will have 10,000 square feet of retail space. So far the only announced retail tenant is a Potbelly Sandwich Shop. However, the site’s location on Prospect Avenue between the Whole Foods store at 2305 N. Prospect Ave. and Kenilworth Square, which has several retail tenants including Urban Outfitters and American Apparel, could be attractive to retailers. Other retailers have expressed interest in the Prospect Mall space, Joseph said.

“I believe Prospect Mall is filling the gap between Whole Foods and the Kenilworth project,” Joseph said. “I think the location is absolutely ideal for retail.”

Greenwich Park Apartments

The Prospect Mall project is expected to be complete in June.

Meanwhile, Joseph recently began construction work at the former Pizza Man site, where he plans to build a four-story building with 39 apartments and 6,000 square feet of retail space.

Prospect Mall redevelopment

One block east of the Pizza Man site, HSI Properties LLC is building a five-story building with 99 market rate apartments, a 16,000-square-foot grey box space for the East Milwaukee Library, and a 2,500-square-foot retail space. The building, which will be called The Standard at East Library, will replace the library building, which was torn down, at 1910 E. North Ave. The project is expected to be complete in July.

“The response we’ve had so far from prospective (apartment) tenants has been really positive,” said Ryan Schultz, principal of HSI Properties.

The firm expects some tenants to be employees at the nearby Columbia St. Mary’s hospital and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said Schultz.

HSI is also “talking to a few prospective tenants right now,” about the retail space in the building, Schultz said.

Schultz is a UWM alumnus who lived on the East Side for 10 years.

“It’s probably one of the best (apartment) submarkets in the area,” he said. “North Avenue has one of the very few walkable environments in Milwaukee. Brady Street is probably second to North Avenue. People can live, work and shop all within walking distance.”

The East Side is a well-developed area with few vacant lots available for new developments, Schultz said. That means the area has good population density and an array of retail services for neighborhood residents. But to meet the demand for additional residential units, most developers need to do redevelopment projects transforming a property into a new or enhanced use.

In addition, Chicago-based Mercy Housing Lakefront, the regional office of Denver-based Mercy Housing Inc., plans to construct a pair of six-story apartment buildings south of Thomas Avenue between Farwell and Murray avenues, a block east of the library project site. The first phase of the project, called Greenwich Park Apartments, would be a 56-unit apartment building and the second phase of the project would be a 44-unit apartment building. The buildings will have a mix of market-rate and “affordable” apartments, which will be available at subsidized lower below-market rents for lower-income families. Mercy is seeking affordable housing tax credits for the project from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

The East Side and East North Avenue are appealing for apartments because of the proximity to Whole Foods, Columbia St. Mary’s, the UWM, the Oriental Theatre, stores, bars and restaurants, Joseph said. Most of those are within walking distance of the East North Avenue developments.

“You could live on the East Side without a car,” he said. “It’s one of the few places in Milwaukee that you can say that.”

Retailers need population density and apartments need retail services close by.

“You can’t have one without the other,” Schultz said.

On the East Side there is already a significant amount of the residential density and retail development

“It’s really the quintessential urban area,” Schultz said.

Apartment building developers consider neighborhood retail services as additional amenities for their properties, Schultz said. The additional development on North Avenue should strengthen the area, he said.

“I think it will have a very positive impact for the retailers,” Schultz said.

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