Hines celebrates apartment tower progress with ceremonial groundbreaking

Houston firm’s investment in city should draw interest from other major developers, officials say

Houston-based Hines is building a 31-story apartment tower at 333 N. Water St. (Rendering courtesy of Solomon Cordwell Buenz)

Last updated on December 7th, 2022 at 02:06 pm

Groundbreakings don’t typically take place in December, at least not in Milwaukee, but executives from Houston-based Hines, contractors, and city officials, didn’t want the year to end without celebrating the start of the firm’s 31-story Third Ward apartment tower.

As pile drivers clanked outside, project planners, backers, and boosters, gathered in the Black Swan Riverwalk space next door in The Renaissance building, to turn a bit of dirt, and express gratitude for a project that developers first started contemplating more than two years ago.

Pile-driving began at the site – previously an 0.8-acre parking lot at 333 N. Water St. – back in September and is expected to be completed sometime in January. The entire 333-unit, $109 million project is expected to be ready for its first tenants in April 2024, and entirely completed by July or August of that year,

The project comes as The Ascent, the recently completed 25-story mass-timber apartment tower at 700 E. Kilbourn Ave., is leasing up its 259 units, and as construction continues on The Couture, a 44-story apartment tower at 909 E. Michigan S. along the downtown lakefront. The Goll Mansion apartment tower project along Prospect Avenue has also wrapped up its last entitlement reviews ahead of a spring construction start.

Rising star

The level of activity, and the support that the Hines Tower project itself has received from the city, all bode well for the city’s development future, said Tom D’Arcy, Hines’ senior managing director.

“We do projects all over the Midwest, and I am not just saying this because we are here today, Milwaukee has been the best city for planning, development, and zoning, that we have worked in,” D’Arcy said. “(DCD Commissioner) Lafayette (Crump) and I were on a (BizTimes Media) panel about two weeks ago, and it was really encouraging to hear Lafayette’s vision for the city going forward. I think Milwaukee has got a really bright future, and I say that as an investor that has been working here for the last 10 years.”

Mayor Cavalier Johnson said the Hines investment, as well as other recent projects, like Milwaukee Tool’s new offices and Fiserv moving its headquarters to downtown Milwaukee will help make the city more attractive to other developers.

“I don’t want Milwaukee to simply be in Chicago’s shadow anymore. It’s time for Milwaukee to break out on its own,” Johnson said. “It’s projects like this that will continue to put Milwaukee on the map and attract more sorts of investments like this.”

Fourth District Ald. Bob Bauman noted that when an international firm like Hines makes a bet on city like Milwaukee, other major investors stand up and notice.

“(Hines has) $92 billion in assets, and I suspect anyone with $92 billion in assets would be considered a leader in the industry, and someone other developers look to as to where they’re going and why they’re going there,” Bauman said. “This international development company has seen fit to investment in this city, which is a vote of confidence in the economic fundamentals of Milwaukee.”

Pile driving 

Pile driving is expected to continue on the site through January, D’Arcy said, with vertical construction is expected to begin in earnest in the spring.

According to Chicago-based W.E. O’Neil, the lead contractor on the project, a total of 347 piles will be driven into the ground as part of the tower’s construction – many of them which will be driven 180 feet into the earth. Those piles include those needed for the RiverWalk expansion project, city officials said.

A building and analysis form submitted for the project in July, puts the current planned height for the structure at 342 feet, with a total of 542,285 square feet that includes a 400-space parking garage. There will be no basement.

The building had originally been designed to be 32 stories high, but the firm opted to eliminate the 32nd floor and increase the square footage of the other floors to allow for the same number of apartments.

In addition to the 333 apartments, plans show 11,750 square feet of ground-floor retail space across three separate units, including 1,760 square feet in the northeast corner of the building, 4,870 square feet to the south along Water Street, and 5,120 square feet largely facing the RiverWalk.

RiverWalk improvements

The project is receiving $903,000 in tax incremental finance assistance from the city for a 210-linear foot RiverWalk connection project.

The money would fund the construction of a public access connection to the existing RiverWalk from the corner of St. Paul Avenue and Water Street. It will also pay for the construction of a dock wall replacement that will support the entire project, including the RiverWalk connection and existing RiverWalk.

Devon Patterson, principal of project architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz of Chicago, noted in August 2020 that the tower would be “pulled back” from the northern and western edges of the property to enhance the experience for RiverWalk users and retail customers.

There will also be open public space between the RiverWalk and the tower. This will provide spill-out dining areas for restaurant or café tenants, developers said.

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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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