Jeffers plans to convert Journal Sentinel building into housing, retail space

Journal Media Group
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel offices and former Journal Media Group headquarters in downtown Milwaukee.

Last updated on November 5th, 2019 at 12:49 pm

Milwaukee-based J. Jeffers & Co. plans to convert the office building currently occupied by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in downtown Milwaukee into a mixed-use building containing 103 housing units and ground-floor retail space.

Jeffers announced last week it had acquired the three Journal Sentinel buildings located on the block bounded by Vel R. Phillips Avenue, State Street, Old World Third Street and Kilbourn Avenue, as part of plans for a historic rehabilitation project. However, the developer didn’t release specific details.

“All options are on the table,” Josh Jeffers, president and CEO of Jeffers, said in a news release last week.

An application filed with the city on Friday show Jeffers has plans in place for at least the largest of the buildings — the six-story, 256,400-square-foot building at 333 W. State St. Plans for the remaining buildings — a four-story structure attached to the south and the Major Goolsby’s sports bar located at 340 W. Kilbourn Ave. — have not been finalized, the application states.

The project is referred to as Journal Square Lofts.

“The primary objective of this project is to provide quality housing options to the central business district of Milwaukee, including units to accommodate family needs,” the developer writes in its application.

Jeffers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

According to documents submitted with the application, the units would be a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units, ranging in size from 495 square feet to 1,472 square feet. There would be 22 studio units, 47 one-bedroom units, 21 two-bedroom units and 13 three-bedroom units. The plans do not specify pricing for the units, but do include a reference to them being affordable.

The retail space, meanwhile, would total nearly 8,800 square feet. Jeffers hasn’t yet selected a tenant for the space, according to the application.

Also included will be 169 underground parking spaces, which will serve both the main State Street building and the east addition built in 1962.

The first floor of the building will consist of the retail space, a lobby, a “common amenity” area and five two-story, three-bedroom units. Entrances to these units will be located in a private alley on the south side of the building.

Upon announcing the acquisition of these buildings, Jeffers said their proximity to the Fiserv Forum and Bucks’ Deer District development bolstered the chances of a successful adaptive reuse project.

The application relays a similar sentiment, pointing out that the block is situated between the Bucks’ arena and the Wisconsin Center. The operators of the downtown convention center plan to embark on an expansion project in 2021.

“The Journal Square block is the connector site that brings together three economic hubs in downtown Milwaukee: Westown, the Fiserv Forum, and the expanded convention center,” the application states. “Allowing street-level retail use at this location supports the revitalization of the West Wisconsin submarket, while activating public use of the block.”

Further, the project will offer more housing options for area employees, especially those who work in the neighboring Deer District.

“Allowing a mix of residential and retail uses at this location will benefit the neighborhood by supporting round-the-clock activity, a necessary condition for safe and lively neighborhoods,” according to the application.

Jeffers said in its release last week that work would likely begin in 2021, following the move out of the Journal Sentinel staff in late 2020.

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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.