Milwaukee businessman Nunemaker buys UWM Alumni House for $1.8 million

Will restore mansion as a private residence

Credit: Google
Credit: Google

Last updated on January 7th, 2021 at 01:48 pm

Milwaukee entrepreneur and philanthropist Andy Nunemaker has purchased the UW-Milwaukee Alumni House and intends to restore it as a private residence, UWM announced today.

The UW System Board of Regents, on behalf of UWM, sold the Alumni House to Nunemaker for $1.8 million, according to a news release.

The 18,000-square-foot house is located at 3230 E. Kenwood Blvd., and was built in 1923 as the private residence of Myron T. and Gertrude MacLaren. It features “extraordinary” materials and craftsmanship, according to UWM, including an unusual exterior façade made of brown Plymouth stone.

It was used as a private residence until 1949, when the Board of Regents of Normal Schools (also known as the Milwaukee State Teacher’s College) acquired it for use as a women’s residence hall. The college merged with the newly created UWM in 1956, at which time UWM took over ownership of the home.

Since then, it has been used as a conference center, alumni center, event space and home to various UWM departments in need of conference space. It has been used less for public events in recent years because the interior is not ADA accessible. The university has also not had the money to make needed renovations.

UWM sought proposals for sale or lease of the property, and selected Nunemaker’s offer because it was the best combination of price, timely closing, likelihood for future preservation and low negative impact on the surrounding residential neighborhood, the release states.

Renovations to the home will include a full restoration of the first-floor living area and major renovations to the kitchen, basement and second-floor living areas.

Architectural historian H. Russell Zimmerman will design a garage that’s to bue built on the west side of the main house. Gardener Ellen Irion will design the formal sunken gardens and a landscape plan for the property.

Nunemaker is vice president of product development for benefits solutions at University Park, Illinois-based Applied Systems and also sits on the board of Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.

He recently spearheaded efforts to raise over $130 million to restore the historic Grand Warner Theatre in downtown Milwaukee as the new home for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Nunemaker has a track record of restoring mansions in the area. He has previously restored two full mansions in the Historic Water Tower District, in which the Alumni House is located. He currently resides at the Vogel Mansion on Terrace Avenue. It is listed for sale with an accepted offer, according to the website of the listing agent, Powers Realty Group.

Proceeds from the sale of the UWM Alumni House will first be used to retire state debt on the property from a previous roof project. The rest will be used by UWM for capital and IT infrastructure needs on its main campus.

“This is a prudent property sale that illustrates the way UW System universities are effectively assessing assets,” UW System interim president Tommy Thompson said in a statement. “I appreciate the work of UW-Milwaukee to bring this real estate transaction to conclusion.”

UWM will retain an easement on the property to allow freshwater intake from Lake Michigan for cooling at the UWM campus. The property is also subject to a conservation easement held by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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