Third Ward architectural board endorses 32-story luxury apartment tower project

$140 million project would build 295 units at prime 'gateway' site

333 N. Water St. Rendering: SCB
333 N. Water St. Rendering: SCB

Last updated on June 18th, 2021 at 11:50 am

The Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board has endorsed a proposed 32-story luxury apartment tower.

Houston-based Hines is planning the $140 million tower for a site at 333 N. Water St., which is currently a parking lot.

The project will consist of 295 apartments, a 400-stall parking structure and retail space at a so-called Third Ward “gateway” site southwest of East St. Paul Avenue and North Water Street.

Meeting this afternoon, the review board voted to approve a certificate of appropriateness for the project, with some conditions based on feedback from board members. The proposal passed on a 6-1 vote.

It was approved over continued criticisms from board member Michael DeMichele. He said what Hines is proposing would be too much density for the site.

A more appropriate site for such a project, he said, would be one of the vast parking lots on the other side of the Third Ward, by the Italian Community Center. DeMichele also was concerned by the increased traffic.

“Between that (the site’s size) and the shadows it’s going to cast, and all those other things, I think it’s going to be too much,” he said.

The project team previously said they had considered other sites in the area, but this is the only one that worked for what they have proposed. They also require a building of this size and density for the endeavor to be financially feasible, they said.

The proposal next heads to the City Plan Commission, and ultimately the Common Council, for a property rezoning.

Board member and downtown Alderman Robert Bauman said the Common Council would likely support the project.

The building would reach 365 feet at its tallest point. By comparison, The Moderne building in downtown Milwaukee is 348 feet tall and the 7Seventy7 building downtown is 387 feet tall.

A ninth-floor amenity deck would feature a fitness area, co-working offices, a lounge, an outdoor pool deck and a pool lounge. The apartments would be a mix of studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

There would be a pocket park next to the Milwaukee River, with outdoor dining space for a presumptive restaurant tenant in one of the storefront spaces. The team also proposes a new connection of the downtown RiverWalk to St. Paul Avenue at the site.

Hines is working with Chicago-based architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz.

The project team got a preliminary endorsement from the review board in May. The review board’s main criticism at the time was of the proposed parking garage. DeMichele said the structure looked “dark, ominous (and) depressing.”

The architect made a few adjustments to the project from last month’s meeting. This includes tweaks to the parking structure design to address the board’s concerns.

It pulled up the metal panels of the structure’s exterior to start higher up. This is in favor of more glass closer to the street, exposing things like the bike spaces and dog lounge.

It is also adding lights to the garage that will better illuminate the exterior. It did something similar when designing downtown Milwaukee’s 7Seventy7 apartment building.

It will add “a lot more life to this at night,” Devon Patterson, a principal at SCB, said.

The garage exterior will consist of metal panels of four different copper colors.

There were other minor tweaks to the glass apartment tower exterior and the new Riverwalk connection at St. Paul Avenue.

Board members gave more suggestions for design modifications, including changes to the entry of the parking structure. They also sought design tweaks to the retail space facing St. Paul Avenue.

The tower is proposed at what the city considers a gateway site to the Third Ward, according to the neighborhood land-use plan. It would be much taller than any other building in the Third Ward. A high-rise wouldn’t be permitted in most of the Third Ward, but this gateway site on the edge of the neighborhood is an exception and the neighborhood plan has long called for a tall building at the site.

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Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.

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