Developer New Land Enterprises is planning a 21-story apartment tower in downtown Milwaukee with a structure made of wood instead of steel or concrete.
The 410,000 square-foot, mixed-use tower, to be called Ascent MKE, would include 201 luxury apartments. It would be built at the site formerly occupied by an Eduardo’s restaurant at the northeast of Van Buren Street and Kilbourn Avenue.
Ascent MKEwould be the tallest timber tower in the Western Hemisphere, said Tim Gokhman, director of New Land Enterprises.
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The tallest mass timber tower in the world is a 24-story hotel currently under construction in Austria. The tallest completed structure is a 20-story building in Norway. The tallest timber building in the United States is an eight-story building in Portland.
“This is a corner we’ve tried to develop multiple times for years and have had difficulties,” Gokhman said. “The challenge for us was to come up with a development that was not just another high rise, but something that would completely transform the way people think about living and design. That is timber.”
In 2014, Chicago developer Carroll Properties announced plans to purchase the site from New Land to build a 32- to 33-story luxury apartment tower. Those plans were later dropped.
Timber buildings are cleaner and more environmentally friendly because they have a smaller carbon footprint than concrete or steel.
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.
Ascent MKE is the second mass timber building New Land is planning in Milwaukee. The company is currently working on a seven-story timber office building at the former Renaissance Book Shop buildings site on North Plankinton Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. That project is expected to break ground in spring 2019.
Milwaukee architectural firm Korb + Associates is designing both projects.
“In addition to activating a long vacant corner, we are developing an environmentally connected, world-class apartment building with unmatched features, amenities and design aesthetics,” Gokhman said.
The first floor of the 238-foot-tall building would include ground level retail. The building would also include an elevated indoor/outdoor pool on the sixth floor that will be surrounded by glass that can open in the summer.
The apartments would be a mixture of one, two and three bedrooms ranging from 660 to 2,800 square feet. There is a demand for larger two- and three-bedroom apartments in Milwaukee from empty nesters who want to live downtown and professionals who want larger floor plans, Gokhman said.
Because of the uniqueness of the project, the development team has been invited to present at the annual conference of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in Dubai, on Oct. 20.
“Half of the room is going to say ‘What is Milwaukee?’ and we are going to tell them,” Gokhman said.
Ascent MKE is one of four apartment towers proposed in or near downtown Milwaukee.
Mandel Group is planning a 176-unit, 20-story apartment project called Portfolio on North Prospect Avenue; Barrett Lo Visionary Development LLC is planning the Couture, a 44-story apartment tower with 322 apartments at the Milwaukee lakefront; a tower planned at the Goll Mansion site on North Prospect Avenue would have 192 units.
All of these projects are dependent on securing financing.
Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company opened Milwaukee’s first new apartment tower in six years, 7Seventy7 in August. The 35-story tower has 310 units.
If all four of the apartment towers proposed in or near downtown are built the number of new units, including 7Seventy7 would add 1,141 apartment units to the downtown Milwaukee market.
Gokhman said he is not worried about obtaining financing for his project because of its uniqueness.
“It is not competing with anything else on the market,” he said. “Milwaukee’s profile has changed. People finally understand this is a serious city. Five years ago, there was not as much confidence.”
Gokhman plans to begin construction in fall 2019 with the building being completed in spring 2021.