The general contractor of the high-profile R1VER development in Milwaukee's Harbor District says construction is proceeding, with repair work expected to begin shortly, following an explosion 10 days ago at the project site.
An explosion and resulting fire occurred at R1VER around 5 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12, according to the Milwaukee fire and police departments. The parking structure was primarily damaged.
R1VER is a mixed-use project being developed by Brownsville-based infrastructure contractor Michels Corp. It includes a 210,000-square-foot, 8-story office building, the parking structure, apartments with retail space, a hotel and potentially another office building. The 8-story office building, which is nearing completion, sits on top of the parking structure.
Providence, Rhode Island-based Gilbane Building Co., the firm overseeing construction work, says the cause of the explosion is still unknown.
"The December 12th incident was generally isolated to a select area of the parking and no injuries occurred," a Gilbane spokesperson said in an email. "Construction work is proceeding on the project and remedial work is being coordinated and expected to proceed shortly. The cause of the incident is under investigation. As the general contractor for this project, Gilbane’s focus remains on the high-quality construction of this dynamic mixed-use development in the timeliest and safest manner possible."
A city inspector's report noted the parking structure sustained "structural failure" on its northern end. The building slab under the apartments was also damaged, though the report didn't detail the extent of that damage.
The Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services has issued an order to repair the damage. The order calls for a report detailing how the team will safely shore up the structure and also requires further investigation on remaining structural beams.
Last week, Michels declined to discuss the extent of the damages or repair estimates. But the city estimates the damages to total nearly $3 million, though those estimates are likely high, according to a city fire official.
This includes approximately $2.1 million damages to the structure itself, and additional $880,000 in damages to the building's contents, which could refer to anything from furnishings to construction equipment, said Daniel Lipski, Milwaukee Fire Department deputy chief.
Lipski cautioned the actual damage costs are different than what MFD arrived at. The department calculates replacement costs due to fire damage by factoring in the percentage of the structure that was damaged, the type of structure it is, and the national average replacement cost.
He said the calculations are often misleading because replacement costs in other communities vary greatly relative to Milwaukee.
Gilbane could not comment on the city's damage estimates, as it conducts its own review of the incident.