Historic Koeffler House sold to developers who plan to convert it into hotel

Will have up to 18 rooms, open before DNC

The historic Koeffler House
The historic Koeffler House

Last updated on September 26th, 2019 at 01:00 pm

A group of developers has purchased the Charles A. Koeffler, Jr. house in downtown Milwaukee’s East Town neighborhood, marking the latest step in their plans to convert the 120-year-old mansion into a boutique hotel.

On Monday, Juli Kaufmann, president of Fix Development, announced on Twitter that the building, located at 817-819 N. Marshall St., had been purchased.

The project ownership and development group consists of Kaufmann, Andy Braatz, owner of Braatz Building Inc., and Patrick Jones, principal owner of Ramsey Jones Architects.

The $2 million project includes $600,000 for purchasing the building and $1.4 million for costs related to construction, furniture, fixtures and equipment.

Once redeveloped, it will be called the Historic Koeffler Inn. Previous plans called for the hotel to have 14 rooms, but now the number of rooms will fall somewhere between 16 and 18, Kaufmann said.

It will also include event space and a commercial kitchen.

Kaufmann said now that the building has changed hands, the developers are focused on two critical steps.

One is the historic designation of the building. Just last week the building passed its initial review, indicating it is likely to eventually be designated by the state and federal governments, she said. Kaufmann added she expects a final determination to be reached within the next 30 to 60 days.

It will be at that point that construction can begin in full. Some selective demolition and other preliminary work can take place in the meantime.

“Roughly in a month’s time we hope to have clarification on the designation, then we can start construction,” she said.

The second critical step involves rounding out the team. The group is on the hunt for a food and beverage operator and a partner in crafting a branding and marketing strategy.

Kaufmann said they’ve also nearly finalized a deal with Sharon Celek Kevil, founder of Forti LLC. Forti, a Milwaukee-based startup, would provide the hotel with custom-designed, locally made furniture.

In fact, the developers’ goal is to complete a project that celebrates Milwaukee, she said. In that vein, they plan to work with local firms.

Kaufmann said construction should finish by May or June, with the hotel open in time for the Democratic National Convention in July. The hotel would ideally be rented out to a single user during the four-day event.

“That’s the real focus of ours,” she said.

The $2 million project is being financed by a $950,000 private bank loan, a $750,000 loan from the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp. and $300,000 in owner equity, Jones said in an email.

The two-and-a-half story Koeffler House was built in 1898 by Ferry & Clas in English Renaissance Revival Style.

It had been considered as a hotel development opportunity by other groups in the past, including a 2017 proposal for a 20-room operation. Nothing came of that project or others, though the building had continued to draw interest. That’s when the current ownership group, who had been involved with previous plans, finally decided to move forward with the project themselves.

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.