Rivianna developers get property option, Plan Commission approval

Rivianna Development Group LLC received approval this week from the City Plan Commission for their proposed apartment and hotel towers development planned for just south of the Historic Third Ward.

Rivianna Development Group LLC, which includes Bob Schultz and Harry Drea, received approval this week from the City Plan Commission of a detailed planned development for their proposed apartment and hotel towers development planned for just south of the Historic Third Ward.

In addition, last week the developers signed a purchase agreement to obtain an option on the property at 236 S. Water St. The property owners are Craig Jorgensen of VJS Construction Services and David Jorgensen of Pewaukee-based VJS Development Group LLC.

The proposed development consists of three 15-story towers that would be built on top of a four-story base on a vacant three-quarters of an acre lot, located along the Milwaukee River in the Fifth Ward, just south of the Historic Third Ward. Two landscaped green roof areas will be between the three towers. The development would have a maximum of 186 residences, a 128-room hotel, 11,000 square feet of retail space and a 411-space parking structure. In a second option, the developer says the project may have a larger hotel with 236 rooms and 152 residences.

The developers have not reached an agreement with a hotel operator yet.

"We have several different entities looking at (operating the hotel)," Drea said.

The project still needs approval from the full Common Council.

The developers say they are close to obtaining financing for the project from a source that they decline to name.

"We’ve had ongoing and positive discussions with our likely funder, and this property agreement is another big step toward getting a shovel in the ground," Drea said.

Drea said construction on the project could begin this summer.

"It’s all on the financing," he said.

It will take about 30 months to build, he said. Milwaukee-based Landscape Architects Inc. is the architect for the project. A general contractor has not been selected yet, said spokesman Evan Zeppos.

Some residents near the site, including resident of the Marine Terminal Lofts condos in the Third Ward, have objected to the project saying it would be too tall and too dense for the neighborhood. Some residents in the neighborhood complained that Rivianna would block their views.

Ald. Robert Bauman, whose district includes the Third Ward but not the Rivianna site across the river, said he opposes the project. He said the project demonstrates the need for a comprehensive plan for the Fifth Ward. The Third Ward has stringent development guidelines, which includes height limits, but on the other side of the river those standards to not apply.

"Frankly, I do think this is a mistake," Bauman said of the Rivianna project. "I feel great empathy for my constituents in Marine Terminal Lofts.’

However most aldermen on the Common Council are eager to see anything get built in this economic climate, Bauman said.

Opponents of the development are hoping the project fails to come to fruition.

"Financing can always fall through and hotel flags can fail to materialize," Bauman said. "That’s the best we can hope for."

The Rivianna project will cost about $80 million, Drea said. The developers have promised to hire union workers for the construction project.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display