Goll Mansion tower gets unanimous committee approval

Brewers Hill apartment development also endorsed

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A plan to relocate the 118-year-old Goll Mansion on Milwaukee’s east side and build a 27-story apartment tower on the site took another step forward Tuesday with the city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee voting unanimously to support a request to rezone the property.

Overhead view.
Overhead view.

Madison-based developer Chris Houden, with Palisade Properties Management LLC, plans to relocate the mansion, 1550 N. Prospect Ave., as part of his $55 million project that includes a 192-unit residential tower.

The committee voted after listening to testimony on the proposal for nearly an hour.

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“I support more urban density,” said Alderman James Bohl. “It might not be ideal for everyone, but it is aesthetically attractive.”

The Common Council will consider the project on July 26.

Rocky Marcoux, commissioner of the department of city development, said after several concerns were raised by the city, aldermen and neighbors, the developer and architect made changes to the project and he is now recommending approval.

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“I think this is a good project for our city,” Marcoux said. “It is within walking distance from the streetcar route that is under construction and this is what we’ve talked about when we talk about transit-orientated development. If we can’t be dense downtown, where are we going to be dense?”

But Alderman Robert Bauman, who is not on the committee but represents the district the Goll Mansion is located in, said the 360,000-square-foot proposal is too dense for the site.

Previously proposed projects at the site were approximately 112,000 square feet, said Bauman, who went on to propose a different type of zoning for the site.

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“No member of the council has been a stronger advocate of increased density and transit-orientated development but that does not mean rubber stamping development,” Bauman said. “This site is not 27th and Wisconsin where development is difficult. This site will have development, but it does not have to be this.”

Several residents of the 1522 Prospect On the Lake condo building spoke in opposition of the project, saying the project is too dense.

But Bill Nasgovitz, chairman of Heartland Advisors, who purchased the Goll Mansion in 2012, and is planning to sell the property to Houden, said this proposal is the best way to preserve the home.

“Turns out, the only economic way to (preserve this) is to go up with a high rise,” Nasgovitz said. “We have a successful developer, we have a world class architect and this deserves to go forward.”

The 9,000-square-foot Goll house, built in 1898, will be relocated 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.

Thomas Miller of Kahler Slater, the architect for the project, has said moving the original house is the only way to restore and rehabilitate the mansion and return it to its prominence on Propsect Avenue.

In June, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission approved plans to relocate the house. The city’s plan commission raised concerns about the project’s effect on traffic and parking and voted 3-3 last month on the plan.

Houden’s plan includes 212 parking spaces located two levels below ground, one level at grade and three levels above grade within a new parking structure. Building amenities would include a fitness center, business center, theater, and roof decks at the fifth floor and 27th floor penthouse.

The apartments will cost between $1,800 a month for a one-bedroom and $3,000 a month for a two-bedroom.

Houden also plans to develop up to eight apartments in the house and possibly retail space or a restaurant.

During the meeting, Houden committed to hiring 20 percent of Milwaukee residents or minorities for the project and said a significant amount of the people who work on the project would be union contractors.

Because he is not receiving any city financing for the project, Houden is not required to abide by city hiring requirements.

His commitment drew several questions from the committee and audience members, including from Dan Bukiewicz, president of the Milwaukee Building & Construction Trades Council, who said many developers who make hiring promises often do not follow through.

“It is very noble that the 20 percent has been put out there, but it’s also critical that standards are held,” Bukiewicz said.

During the same meeting Tuesday, the panel unanimously approved The Hills Luxury Commons, a 181-unit residential development planned at 1937 N. Hubbard St. in the Brewers Hill neighborhood. The one- and two-bedroom apartments will be built in three buildings by Kevin Newell of Royal Capital Group. Amenities will include multiple rooftop terraces, and a café/restaurant. The committee praised Newell for his willingness to work with neighbors on their concerns about parking and density.

The apartment project sill requires final plan commission approval on July 26.

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