Goll Mansion tower developer regroups

Project failed to receive needed supermajority support of Common Council

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The future of the Goll Mansion site on Milwaukee’s east side, and possibly the future of the 118-year-old mansion itself, will likely be decided by mid-August.

Despite more than half of the Milwaukee Common Council voting in favor of a proposal from Madison developer Chris Houden to build a 27-story apartment tower on the site, the plan was defeated Tuesday because it did not receive support of a supermajority of the council. A supermajority was needed because residents of the 1522 Prospect On the Lake condo building submitted a protest petition. City statue requires a supermajority vote when 20 percent of the owners of property within 100 feet of the site oppose the project.

View from the lakefront.
Rendering of the Goll Mansion tower, in the center of this image. The 1522 Prospect on the Lake building is just to the left of it.

After the council vote, the future of the Goll Mansion site is in question.

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“Chris still has an option on the property and he’s exploring his options,” said a spokesman for Houden. “He’s also in discussions with the current owners (of the property) too. By mid-month we should have a sense of what those options are and what direction he wants to go.”

Aldermen Cavalier Johnson, Robert Bauman, Mark Borkowski, Jose Perez and Tony Zielinski voted against the $55 million proposal at 1550 N. Prospect Avenue that would have included moving the historic mansion closer to the street to make room for a 192-unit, 360,000-square-foot residential tower.

Houden’s proposal was unanimously approved at the city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee last week and the plan to move the mansion won approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission last month.

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Bauman, who represents the district the property is located in, has been very vocal in his opposition in the project saying it is too dense for the area. He said the project approved for the site in 2008, for New Land Enterprises LLP, was more appropriate. New Land Enterprises received approval to build a 26-story, 35-unit condo tower that would have been attached to the Goll Mansion. The square footage would have been about 112,000 square feet.

The 2008 project was controversial and opposed by some historic preservationists who said it would damage the historic integrity of the mansion. Residents of 1522 on The Lake were also very vocal in their opposition of that project.

When the downtown Milwaukee condo market collapsed during the Great Recession, New Land did not move forward with its plans for a condo tower and the property was seized by Associated Bank.

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Bill Nasgovitz, chairman of Heartland Advisors, purchased the 9,000-square-foot Goll Mansion in 2012 from Associated Bank for $835,000. A year later, he partnered with Christopher Adams, principal of Dominion Properties, who purchased half the interest in the property in March 2014.

Nasgovitz and Adams agree that without moving the mansion and repairing its foundation, the structure probably can’t be preserved. In order to yield profits from the property to restore the mansion, a large apartment tower is needed, Adams said during an interview last month.

“(The mansion) 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.”

Houden’s project would have created an estimated 770 jobs, according to Ken Kraemer, executive director of Building Advantage, the Construction Labor Management Council of Southeast Wisconsin, who submitted a letter of support for the project to the Common Council on July 26.

Despite the promise of those jobs, Alderman Johnson said he could not support the proposal because of its size and density.

“I am aware that the project would have created jobs however, a last moment effort to suggest that the general contractor would be union — securing the best possible wages for workers without a firm and solidified agreement before the Common Council meeting wasn’t enough to gain my support,” Johnson said.

Zielinski said he did not support the proposal because of residents’ concerns.

“If they want to change the zoning they need to get the impacted residents on board,” Zielinski said. “There is always an opportunity to develop that site by addressing residents’ concerns. I am for the right kind of development and not just any kind of development.”

Perez said he voted against the project based on neighborhood testimony provided at the ZND committee and the size and density of the building.

“It was just bad urban planning,” Perez said.

Borkowski did not return requests for comment.

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