Mandel Group Inc.’s North End development, located in an area where downtown Milwaukee meets the city’s Lower East Side neighborhood, is anchoring a surge of apartment development in the area, which includes parts of the long-vacant Park East corridor. The development boom will boost this area’s population, help attract additional retailers to the area and fill a gap between downtown and the East Side.
The North End is being developed between the Milwaukee River and Water Street at East Pleasant Street. The site was formerly occupied by the Pfister & Vogel tannery. It is also located along the eastern portion of the Park East corridor, a long-vacant area that is finally starting to develop. Until now this has been a barren area creating a dead zone between much of downtown and the Lower East Side, including Brady Street.
“We always called (the North End site) the hole in the donut,” said Mandel Group President Barry Mandel. “It was begging to be developed.”
So far, Mandel Group has built three apartment buildings with a total of 238 units in the North End project, and nearly all of them have been leased. The first building, with 83 apartments and 12,000 square feet of retail space, was completed in 2009. The second phase of the project, which consists of 155 apartments in two buildings, was completed last year. The firm recently said the buildings in the second phase of the project have “achieved sustained occupancy in the high 90th percentile for the past quarter.”
Now Mandel is planning to begin construction on the third and fourth phases of the North End project.
The third phase of the North End will be built northwest of Water Street and Pleasant Street, just north of the first two phases of the project. It will have a Fresh Thyme Farmers Market organic grocery store, occupying about 28,000 square feet of space, on the first floor with 168 apartments in the upper floors of the building. Construction for phase three of the North End is expected to begin in June, Mandel said.
The fourth phase of the North End will have a total of 250 apartments in a pair of buildings to the south of the existing development. One building there will be on the west side of Water Street and the other will be on the east side of the street.
Once fully built out the North End will have a total of 656 apartments, the organic grocery store and additional retail space.
“It has been our goal from the time we bought (the site in October of 2001), we always thought we were going to be building the north end of downtown,” Mandel said. “That’s what we’ve done.”
But the North End is just one of several developments transforming the neighborhood.
Wauwatosa-based real estate firm Wangard is building Avenir, a 104-unit, four-story apartment building at the southwest corner of North Jefferson Street and East Lyon Street, just southeast of the North End. In addition to the apartments, the building will also have underground parking and 7,000 square feet of retail space. Jimmy John’s and Great Clips have already signed leases to open locations in the building.
The project is the first of a three-phase development planned by Wangard on the block. The second phase will be a 95-unit apartment building on Milwaukee Street that will be attached to the first phase building.
In addition, Wangard plans to build a mixed-use development at the corner of Water and Brady streets. That project will have 150 apartments and 6,600 square feet of retail space with a café and a restaurant overlooking the Milwaukee River. It will also have a public walkway from Brady Street to the riverwalk. The project is expected to begin this year and is expected to be completed in 2015.
Three apartment developments are either under construction or have been completed recently along Jackson Street, just east of the North End. Dermond Properties Investments built a 34-unit apartment development, called Avante, at the northwest corner of Pleasant and Jackson streets. Chicago-based Blackwatch ’68 Properties built a 14-unit apartment development at 1530 N. Jackson St. Dominion Properties is building a 20-unit, four-story apartment building, called Sage On Jackson, at 1509 N. Jackson St.
Another major development project is planned in the area by Opus Development Corp. and Mercy Housing Lakefront Inc., which plan to build a three-building, mixed-use development on a 2.3-acre block bounded by Water Street, Broadway, Ogden Avenue and Milwaukee Street in the Park East corridor. The project will have 190 apartments, 33,000 square feet of retail space and 21,000 square feet of office space. Construction is expected to begin later this year.
Other retailers coming to the neighborhood include Upright Coffee, an espresso bar and coffee shop that will occupy 1,373 square feet of space in The Flatiron building at 1550-60 N. Water St. Though small, the deal is significant because the retail space in The Flatiron has remained vacant since the six-story 38-unit condo building was completed in 2008.
Meanwhile, across the Milwaukee River from the North End, a $22 million improvement project is under construction at the Schlitz Park office complex. It is the third phase of a $35 million to $40 million improvement project at Schlitz Park. The third phase of the project includes improvements for UMB Fund Services, which will move its office there from its current location at 803 W. Michigan St. UMB Fund Services has 250 employees in its Milwaukee office. In addition, Reader’s Digest recently announced plans to move its office, and 200 employees, from Greendale to Schlitz Park.
Add it all up and the North End and the other nearby developments are creating a new destination area for people that want to live downtown, Mandel said.
“We have built a new community,” he said. “It will change where residential housing is located downtown.”