Goll Mansion apartment tower project gets a reboot

New plan calls for slimmer design, bigger set back, lower height

Willow Partners have revived plans to construct a 192-unit apartment tower behind the Goll Mansion at 1550 N. Prospect Ave. on Milwaukee's East Side. (rendering courtesy of Solomon Cordwell Buenz)

Last updated on October 21st, 2022 at 01:56 pm

After hitting pause three years ago on plans to build an apartment tower behind the Goll Mansion at 1550 N. Prospect Ave. on Milwaukee’s East Side, Madison-based development firm Willow Partners is about to reboot the project, this time with plans they think will make for a better a building, as well as happier neighbors.

In its first iteration, the apartment tower was slated to be 28 stories, 301 feet tall, and about 83 feet wide.

An amended plan for the building, named 1550 Prospect, calls for a slightly reduced height, slimmer shape, and larger setback. While the new building is expected to still have 192 units, it will be 25 stories, 277 feet high and roughly 74 feet wide. The new building will also be set back farther from 1522 On the Lake, the 18-story condo tower immediately to the south of the Goll Mansion. Where the original design called for a 51 feet distance between the two structures, the new one has them at 60 feet apart.

The new building would also have six floors devoted to providing 210 parking spaces, three above grade and three below. The building’s gross square footage would total 228,002 square feet, about 20,000 square feet less than in the 2017 plans.

The $69 million, high-end apartment building will feature a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, as well as a few three-bedroom units.

Redesign

The idea with the redesign, said Chris Houden Jr., managing partner with Willow Partners, which submitted the first plans for the tower back in 2016, was to try to “create better externalities” for the building in an effort to make it a better fit for the neighborhood and better project overall.

This new version is being designed by Devon Patterson, a principal of Chicago-based architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB). Patterson was hired to revamp the Goll Mansion tower design following the 2019 death of the project’s original architect, Tom Miller, a principal with Milwaukee’s Kahler Slater.

Patterson helped design the 7SEVENTY7 apartment tower at 777 N. Van Buren St. in downtown Milwaukee, and the Hines apartment tower under construction at 333 N. Water St. in the Historic Third Ward.

While Willow could move forward with the city-approved original Goll Mansion tower design – what Houden calls “Option A” – he believes the new design for 1550 Prospect – “Option B” – will be more attractive to neighbors and city officials.

“We will provide a more sustainable building, (that) ultimately will have a better tax impact on the city and will just be more conscientious,” Houden said. He added that the new design is still being tweaked to make it more amenable. For instance, some balconies on the south have be recessed, while some on the north side have been removed entirely.

Location

The revival of the project itself comes as the city has seen a boom in high-end apartment tower development. The 25-story, 259-unit Ascent at 700 E. Kilbourn Ave. welcomed its first residents in July. The 44-story, 322-unit Couture, currently under construction at 909 E. Michigan St., is slated for partial occupancy in fall 2023. And the 32-story Hines apartment tower is under construction.

Asked about competing for market share with those projects, Houden said that while potential market saturation is always a factor to consider when moving ahead with high end apartment projects, he said he is “very confident the market had the depth to absorb (the) asset” and that it will ultimately be “very successful.”

What sets the 1550 Prospect project apart from the other high end apartment towers recently completed or under construction in Milwaukee, is its East Side location on Prospect Avenue, Houden said.

“The walkability score (for the Goll Mansion site) is in the upper 90s. But ultimately it is being on that bluff. It’s getting 360-degree uninhibited views of the lake and the cityscape,” he said.

The Goll Mansion

The development plan still calls for moving the Goll Mansion itself 36 feet closer to the street, but there will not longer be underground parking constructed below the home.

“We are using masonry materials to tie the two projects together,” Patterson said, while still using floor-to-ceiling glass for the apartments themselves that will give the tower a more modern feel overall.

Named for its original owners – Milwaukee area dry good dealer Frederick Goll and his wife Eleanor – the Goll Mansion is an historic landmark, notable for its owners, architectural style, and architects. One of the first Jacobean/Elizabethan revival style buildings constructed in Milwaukee, the home was designed by renowned local architects Ferry & Clas and built in 1898.

The mansion, which was purchased – as part of the entire site – by Willow Partners earlier this year for $2.87 million, is currently vacant, but Houden said the company will find a use for the building that benefits the neighborhood and city at large.

Patterson noted that moving the mansion closer to the street puts it more in line with other setbacks on Prospect Avenue.

“Right now, it is pushed back so it doesn’t really have the prominence but pulling it out you will be able to see it more,” he added.

What’s next?

With the original project plan having already received approval back in 2017, the city approval process for the updated 1550 Prospect plans could be a swifter this time around. That being said the amended plans will still need to undergo review by the City Plan Commission, the Zoning Neighborhoods & Development Committee (ZND) and the Common Council.

Should those approvals go smoothly, Houden said he hopes to break ground on the project sometime in mid-to-late summer of 2023.

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Cara covers commercial and residential real estate. She has an extensive background in local government reporting and hopes to use her experience writing about both urban and rural redevelopment to better inform readers. Cara lives in Waukesha with her husband, a teenager, a toddler, a dog named Neutron, a bird named Potter, and a lizard named Peyoye. She loves music, food, and comedy, but not necessarily in that order.

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