A mixed-use mass timber building is in the works northeast of State and Edison streets, along downtown Milwaukee's riverfront.
A Madison-based developer called The Neutral Project is working on the development. Known as The Edison, it would be built at 1005 N. Edison St.
The project is still in the design phases, but the current plan is for the building to include a 16-story tower that steps down to an 11- or 12-story tower, according to Nate Helbach, managing partner of Neutral.
It would total 232,000 square feet and contain about 224 residential units, 110 parking stalls and 15,000 square feet of retail space, according to project materials.
Helbach said the retail space would wrap around the first floor, covering the interior parking. They would ideally like to land a restaurant and bar as an anchor tenant, in order to activate the strip of downtown RiverWalk that runs along the property's western perimeter, he said.
The site is now home to a warehouse building for wholesale florist Rojahn & Malaney Co. The company owns the property but has it listed for sale through Milwaukee brokerage firm The Barry Co.
Helbach and fellow managing partner Tyler Warner said their firm has the site under contract. They would close once they've received necessary approvals from the city.
They declined to disclose the expected project cost. They said it would primarily be financed through traditional means, such as loans and equity. But they are looking at some grant programs. This includes incentives from the state's Focus on Energy program as well as a grant through the U.S. Forestry Service.
Neutral's goal is to develop real estate using sustainable methods. It has a project similar to The Edison in Madison.
Warner said the firm ultimately wants to build completely carbon-neutral buildings. The methods they're pursuing now, including the use of mass timber, cuts down on construction carbon emissions by up to an estimated 80% over using concrete, they said.
"We are still reducing our emission, we just want to hit the point where it's completely zero," Warner said.
Jeff Fleming, a spokesman for the Department of City Development, said department officials were aware of the project. He did not share details beyond that. Alderman Robert Bauman, who represents the downtown area, also acknowledged he was aware of the project.
News of the project was first reported by The Daily Reporter.
Rojahn & Malaney is looking to sell the property for about $4.2 million, the listing states. The property is assessed at $1.26 million, according to city records.
According to the listing, the half-acre site has 210 feet of Milwaukee River frontage with unobstructed views in all directions. It is next to the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
Warner and Helbach said they want to secure all approvals by this summer. Following two to three months of preparing construction documents, they hope to break ground in November.
If constructed, The Edison would be among the first mass timber buildings in the city of Milwaukee. It would follow Ascent, which is under construction downtown, and Timber Lofts, which was built recently in Walker's Point.
First invented in the 1920s, and re-imagined as a building material in the 1970s and ’80s, mass timber has been used for high rises across Europe, Australia and Canada. Changes to U.S. building codes recently opened the door for domestic mass timber high-rise construction.