Height variance approved for 24-story tower along Milwaukee River

Use of building planned at former Laacke & Joys site not disclosed

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A city panel on Thursday approved a request by HKS Holdings to build a 24-story tower along the Milwaukee River just north of downtown, but the developer isn’t saying what the development will include.

The Redevelopment Authority voted unanimously to approve a waiver to the maximum 12-story height established in the Park East Redevelopment Plan to permit the 24 story tower, which would be located north of the office building occupied by Bader Rutter on the former Laacke & Joys site at 1433 N. Water St.

Drawing of what a tower could look like in the Park East landscape.

When Kyle Strigenz, co-owner of HKS Holdings, was asked why the building is planned for 24 stories he said the height “fits with what we already have planned out.” When asked to elaborate, Strigenz said he could not do so at this time.

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If the plan moves forward, HKS will have to go through design approvals. No future meetings have been scheduled. If this proposal does not move forward within 36 months, the waiver expires.

In April, Stu Wangard, chief executive officer and chairman of Wauwatosa-based Wangard Partners, who is redeveloping the former Laacke & Joys site, said he was working with HKS on a hotel project at the site.

At the time, Strigenz also confirmed the partnership, but would not give further details.

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The only other time the city has granted a height variance in the Park East area was for The Moderne apartment tower, which is 30 stories.

Alyssa Remington, with the Milwaukee Department of City Development, said it was always anticipated larger buildings would be constructed in the Park East corridor and the height restriction would be lifted.

Alderman Nik Kovac, who represents the district where the tower could be built, agreed that he has wanted larger buildings in the corridor.

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“I think we should want a higher downtown,” Kovac said. “This is pushing the edge of downtown, but not by much.”

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