Mandel Group planning office development along Milwaukee River

Rendering of the "Vista" building.

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 05:00 pm

Milwaukee‐based developer Mandel Group, Inc. released conceptual plans Friday for a three-building, 275,000-square-foot office development along the Milwaukee River in Walker’s Point, across the river from the firm’s Domus project, which is under construction.

The preliminary plan incorporates two new buildings and a repurposed warehouse building on a 7-acre site near East Florida and South Water streets, including the former Wisconsin Cold Storage Co. property and river-fronting parcels on Water Street owned by Delaware-based Kurth Corporation.

Mandel has secured the Kurth properties under an accepted offer to purchase and has been reviewing development alternatives for the properties since earlier this year.

A public pedestrian park is proposed on lands previously used as the south approach serving the CNW Railroad’s river‐spanning swing bridge.

Mandel’s proposal would further activate the landside trestle area and adjoining vacant land with both seasonal and year‐round commercial and recreational businesses, including the Milwaukee Kayak Company.

Redevelopment of the property will require demolition of the 12‐story dormant grain elevator at the southern end of the development site. A public riverwalk would connect the development with future development both north and south of the site. Public boat landings and a kayak rental concession is planned.

The riverfront development is comprised of two structures: a long, gallery‐like structure named “Vista” that contains 100,000 square feet of office space, organized as a main floor 65,000 square‐foot “gallery” space and a 35,000 square‐foot second floor mezzanine. The space includes views of the Milwaukee River and downtown skyline through its 400‐foot façade that would face toward the river.

The gallery floor would have 40-foot ceiling heights and the building would have a 150-car indoor parking facility. Additional overflow parking is available on the adjoining Cold Storage property.

A second riverfront structure is proposed in the location of the existing grain elevator. Named “Overlook,” the proposed 7‐story mixed‐use structure would contain 60 stalls of indoor parking, a 6,500-square‐foot commercial first floor public parking garage and four office floors each containing 15,000 square feet.

A third mixed‐use building is planned on the adjoining former Wisconsin Cold Storage Co. property, combining repurposed portions of the existing historic buildings with new construction. The Cold Storage site will also include  a low‐rise parking structure and additional surface parking to support the overall development concept.

Mandel Group, which focuses on high-end multi-family developments, has spent the last year conducting market analysis and gathering input from real estate brokers and tenant representatives actively engaged in the office market to bring forward the plan.

William Bonifas, executive vice president of CBRE, has been working with Mandel Group on the project and Jim Shields, with HGA Architects and Engineers is the architect on the project.

Bonifas said he believes each building can attract unique users looking to make a memorable, competitive brand statement through its office environment.

“Technology and professional service companies are well aware of the changes occurring in the workplace,” Bonifas said. “The latest generation of employees is keenly dialed into the quality of their work environment, with the best talent attracted to companies that show specific interest in providing creative, collaborative work settings for their associates.”

Bonifas said the 65,000 square‐foot floorplate of Vista’s gallery level is unique to Milwaukee and would be appealing for a large single user.

“There are a lot of companies that could realize operational efficiencies in this setting, being able to accommodate their workforce on a single floor overlooking the river.” Bonifas said.

Robert Monnat, chief operating officer for Mandel Group, said he is excited about the potential of the site and believes it adds an appealing level of texture to the river front.

“The office experience and urban setting will be unlike any other opportunity in Milwaukee, much more akin to what you see in redeveloped European port cities,” Monnat said.

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