‘Fundamental shift’

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 am

For four years, Milwaukee-based Mandel Group Inc. has been waiting for the real estate market to catch on to its eco-friendly development vision. That finally appears to be happening, according to Bob Monnat, chief operating officer of the firm.

The company’s emphasis on green development started with the RiverCrest residences on North Commerce Street and North Humboldt Avenue, the first multi-family project in the City of Milwaukee designated as a green-built project by the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance (WGBA).

“We became the first condominium developer in the city to join the WGBA as a multi-family developer and we found we were more ahead of market,” Monnat said. “We spent more money to include energy-efficient features and meet green building criteria, but we did not find attraction in the marketplace.”

That has changed, Monnat said.

“Today, a lot of buyers are coming in the door wondering what are we doing in terms of sustainable building, and it is a huge part of the dialog,” he said.

Mandel Group has focused on green building for the past 10 years. The development firm only builds on blighted brownfield sites or underutilized urban space, not on greenfield sites, Monnat said.

In the past four years, Mandel Group has been dedicated to sustainable development and responsible construction practices.

“People are focusing on cars and power plants but they don’t realize buildings account for 43 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the environment and 21 percent of that comes from residential construction,” Monnat said. “As a responsible developer, we feel it is critical that we pay attention to that and begin to understand what we do.”

Mandel Group’s newest project that is closest to breaking ground is Domus, a six-story, 61-unit condominium complex in the Historic Third Ward. The estimated $50 million project will be located just east of Mandel’s Marine Terminal Lofts condominium development on North Broadway and East Erie Street.

The site is currently a surface parking lot that Mandel Group purchased in conjunction with the Marine Terminal Lofts structure in 2003. With 50 percent of the salable property already reserved by interested buyers, Monnat expects to submit plans to the city planner’s office and the Third Ward architectural review board this spring.

“Everyone we have shared the project with thus far has given us very positive feedback and we are looking forward to moving through the approval process,” Monnat said.

Mandel Group plans to begin construction on Domus in November and have its first occupancies by late 2008 or early 2009.

The name Domus is in reference to a style of house prevalent in Ancient Rome that was designed to be connected to the environment surrounding it, Monnat said. Most of the main rooms in the house were attached to an atrium or courtyard space, and Mandel Group’s Domus is following suit.

“Most of the units are distinguished by enlarged outdoor balconies,” Monnat said. “The top floor units will have full-roof terraces running the length of the units and measuring from 60 feet long to 130 feet long.”

The smallest unit is 1,492 square feet, and the largest unit will be 4,500 square feet. The units will range in price from $400,000 to more than $1.6 million.

Amenities in the building include an underground parking structure with at least two stalls reserved for each unit, a fitness area and boat slips on the Milwaukee River.

Like most new Third Ward projects, Domus will have two retail spaces on the first floor – one about 4,800 square feet and one that will be 2,800 square feet. Mandel Group has not leased the space yet, but it is not looking for a restaurant, Monnat said.

“We are looking for other complimentary retail,” Monnat said. “One benefit (of the Third Ward) is being able to walk to everything and to the extent that we can shorten the walk by having a valued retailer in the building, we are better off.”

Keeping in line with the other developments along the Milwaukee River in the Third Ward, Mandel will develop a full Riverwalk and will offer a public boat basin where people who don’t have boat slips there can still tie their boats up and walk around the Third Ward, Monnat said.

Domus was designed by Milwaukee-based Hammel, Green and Abrahamson Inc. (HGA). Mandel Group, working with HGA, emphasized eco-friendly design and engineering features for Domus to provide a superior quality of living environment, Monnat said.

“When you are trying to influence environmental impact through the way you build, there are significant components,” Monnat said. “Twenty-two percent of electrical consumption in the U.S. is spent on the illumination of homes and businesses. On the plumbing side, the U.S. uses 33.6 billion gallons per day of fresh water. These are massive numbers.”

Domus will have a high quality of energy efficiency throughout its design, from the floor-to-ceiling windows on all exterior walls of the building, to the mechanical systems to the appliances located within each residence.

Mandel Group considered the indoor environmental quality by making sure residents would have a high air quality, acoustical quality and lighting quality within their spaces.

“It is amazing how little fresh air is introduced into residential living environments if (developers) follow normal building practices,” Monnat said.

Through optical glass and cross ventilation, the mechanical systems within the building will provide for air filtration and ways to remove naturally occurring bacteria that is in the air, Monnat said.

Mandel Group also invested in hi-tech window systems that are as energy efficient as they are acoustically efficient to let less outdoor sounds into each unit. Light emitting diode (LED) fixtures will be used instead of florescent because of their longer life and ability to use less energy while lighting a room or hallway.

The sustainable material in the design of Domus was very important to Mandel Group, Monnat said. Throughout construction, recyclable materials are separated from non-recyclables. Low volatile organic compound (VOC) paint will be used as well as sustainable harvested flooring.

Mandel Group is also considering incorporating photovoltaic cells on a demonstration basis in the common areas of Domus as part of a screening system for incorporating the sun into the mechanical system, Monnat said.

When Domus is completed, Milwaukee area residents will most likely see similar practices in all of Mandel Group’s future projects, Monnat said.

“This is something we have been looking at for the last few years and are at the point now where what we are doing at Domus, we are incorporating a lot of the same concepts at North End (the development that will replace the former Pfister & Vogel factory in downtown Milwaukee) and will at other parcels we own downtown that will continue to build out,” Monnat said. “There has been a fundamental shift in the way we are thinking about investing dollars in the quality of what we build, and there will be more dollars added to meet eco-friendly criteria on a project by project basis.”

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