After hitting the pause button three years ago, Madison-based Willow Partners wants to reboot its plans to build an apartment tower behind the Goll Mansion at 1550 N. Prospect Ave., on Milwaukee’s East Side, this time with plans it says are aimed at making for a better building and happier neighbors.
In its first iteration, the apartment tower was slated to be 28 stories, 301 feet tall and about 83 feet wide. This time around, plans call for a building with a slightly reduced height, slimmer shape and greater setback.
While the new building is expected to still have 192 units, it will be 25 stories, 277 feet high and roughly 74 feet wide. The new building will also be set back farther from 1522 On the Lake, the 18-story condo tower immediately to the south of the Goll Mansion. While the original design called for a 51-foot distance between the two structures, the new one has them at 60 feet apart.
The $69 million, high-end apartment building is slated to have six floors devoted to indoor parking, providing 210 spaces for residents and guests. The building’s gross square footage would total 228,002. That’s about 20,000 square feet less than what was originally proposed in 2017.
The building will feature a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments as well as a few three-bedroom units.
Plans still call for moving the historic Goll Mansion 36 feet closer to the street, but there will no longer be underground parking constructed below the home.
The idea with the redesign is to try to “create better externalities” for the building in an effort to make it a better fit for the neighborhood, said Chris Houden Jr., managing partner at Willow Partners.
The new version of the project is being designed by Devon Patterson, a principal at Solomon Cordwell Buenz of Chicago. Patterson was hired to revamp the design following the 2019 death of the project’s original architect, Tom Miller, who was a principal with Milwaukee-based Kahler Slater.
Patterson helped design the 7Seventy7 apartment tower at 777 N. Van Buren St. in downtown Milwaukee and the Hines apartment tower, under construction at 333 N. Water St. in the city’s Historic Third Ward.
While Willow could move forward and build with the project’s original design, which has been approved by the city, Houden said the new design will be more attractive to neighbors and city officials.
“We will provide a more sustainable building, (that) ultimately will have a better tax impact on the city and will just be more conscientious,” Houden said.
He added that the new design is still being tweaked to make it more amenable to neighbors. For instance, some balconies on the south side have been recessed, while some on the north side have been removed entirely.
Asked for his thoughts on the project, Ald. Bob Bauman, who voted against the original building proposal in 2017, said the changes are an improvement, especially the increased distance between the adjacent structures. The Goll Mansion is in his district.
“They are working on a few more details as well,” Bauman said, noting that he won’t take a position on the project until he sees the final design.
“It’s not in its final form – some of the detailing may not yet be known – but the neighbors understand that this is an improved project and that (the developers) could (go ahead with the other plan if they want to).”
Location and competition
The revival of the project itself comes as the city has seen a boom in high-end apartment tower development. The 25-story, 259-unit Ascent at 700 E. Kilbourn Ave. welcomed its first residents in July. The 44-story, 322-unit Couture, currently under construction at 909 E. Michigan St., is slated for partial occupancy by late 2023. The 32-story apartment tower being built by Houston-based Hines will have 333 units.
Asked about the addition of so much supply to the luxury apartment market in the downtown area, Houden said that while potential market saturation is always a factor to consider when moving ahead with high-end projects, he is “very confident the market has the depth to absorb (the) asset” and that it will ultimately be “very successful.”
What sets the Goll Mansion project apart from the other high-end apartment towers is location, Houden said.
“The walkability score is in the upper 90s. But ultimately, it is being on that bluff. It’s getting 360-degree, uninhibited views of the lake and the cityscape,” he said.