Lower East Side office building to be converted to senior community

Development plans call for 65-bed facility on North Farwell Avenue

The proposed Platinum Communities senior community on North Farwell Avenue. (Rendering: Anderson Ashton)

Last updated on June 18th, 2019 at 10:56 am

A group of developers has plans to convert the Fenwick Office Building on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side into a senior living facility.

Robert Chandler, managing member of Caledonia-based Midwest Commercial Funding LLC, said he and development partner Peter Ogden, president and chairman of Milwaukee-based Ogden & Co., are planning to redevelop the six-story, nearly 38,000-square-foot vacant office building at 1442 N. Farwell Ave. into a 65-bed facility.

The senior community will be operated by Brookfield-based Platinum Communities, with design/build work being performed by New Berlin-based Anderson-Ashton Inc.

The development group recently filed an application for a zoning code appeal with the city related to the project. Assuming city approvals are met, Chandler said building renovations are expected to begin this summer, with an anticipated opening of June 2020.

Matt Teresinski, co-owner and director of growth and innovation at Platinum Communities, said the development plans call for five floors of residential units, with the first floor to be used for office, laundry, kitchen and dining space.

A seventh-story penthouse would also be added to the building, which will be used as an activity room and common area, with walls of windows overlooking the city and Lake Michigan lakefront. It will also have a patio, which will have outdoor seating and raised gardens.

Two floors of the building will be specifically designed for residents with dementia or memory issues. The other three residential floors will be more along the lines of a community-based residential facility, Teresinski said.

“We are very excited for the opportunity to bring affordable assisted living to the heart of the East Side,” Teresinski said, adding that the project will fill a need for more senior housing in the area.

The building’s location is a bonus, too, Chandler and Teresinski said. Chandler pointed out a planned extension of The Hop streetcar system would run past the building.

“We (the building) are in the next phase of The Hop, which goes right in front of the property,” Chandler said. “But it’s more just the demographics of the area.”

Chandler said he bought the property about a year ago, and initially had plans to use it as a storage facility. But then a broker told Teresinski about the property as an opportunity to develop senior housing. Teresinski said his group visited the building in September.

Platinum Communities owns and operates six other senior living communities in the state. This will be the first Platinum Communities facility not owned by the company, but it will be operated in the same manner as the others, Teresinski said.

The new facility will join others in the area, including St. John’s on the Lake at 1840 N. Prospect Ave. St. John’s last year broke ground on a 22-story tower, which is being built on the north parking lot of the campus, at Kane Place and Prospect Avenue.

Teresinski said the Platinum Communities facility will provide a more affordable option, albeit with fewer amenities, than St. John’s and other area senior communities.

“We see the East Side as really underserved for people who are not on the high end (income level),” he said.

This is also not the first time Platinum Communities will be opening a community in a building once used for other purposes. For example, its Oak Creek location is at the site of a former schoolhouse, Teresinski said.

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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.