Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:22 am
A seven-story office building made of wood instead of steel or concrete is planned at the site of the former Renaissance Book Shop buildings on North Plankinton Avenue in downtown Milwaukee.
Tim Gokhman, director of Milwaukee development firm New Land Enterprises, said the project has been in the works for about two years.
He is working with Jason Korb, with Milwaukee architectural firm Korb + Associates, who first suggested the idea of a mass timber building.
“There are really only a handful of these buildings in the United States,” Gokhman said. “The credit really goes to Jason for bringing this to our attention.”
The first major multi-story U.S. office building to be constructed of wood in the last 100 years is Minneapolis’ T3 building, which has become a prototype for mass timber in other developments.
Korb said the design of the Plankinton Avenue building will be similar to the T3 building, which used vintage brick and wood, similar to buildings in the Historic Third Ward, but with a modern feel.
“I’ve been waiting for the right project,” he said. “I think the New Land guys are great innovators, and this will be really cool on the river.”
Timber buildings are cleaner and more environmentally friendly because they have a smaller carbon footprint than concrete or steel.
“Any company that is environmentally conscious or into esthetic or structural design will see this as a very unique opportunity,” Gokhman said.
The seven-story building will have a lobby and retail or office space on the first floor. Floors two through seven will have 6,000-square-foot floor plates for office users.
Gokhman would like to begin construction in the spring, although it will depend on leasing. He said he has already gotten significant interest in the project.
The project can be built by right, but because it is in the Riverwalk overlay district, the city plan commission will have to review the plans.
“This is a boutique building,” Gokhman said. There are not a lot of boutique new construction office buildings designed for mid-sized tenants who don’t want to feel anonymous in a large complex.”
An investor group led by Gokhman purchased the 116-year-old Renaissance Book Shop buildings on the site at 830 N. Plankinton Ave. in May 2016.
The properties had been condemned by the city of Milwaukee. After working with an engineering group, Gokhman determined the buildings could not be saved. The buildings were deconstructed, not demolished. That process is now complete.