Wangard drops option on Park East Block 22, county will re-issue RFP

Adjacent Avenir Apartments listed for sale


Milwaukee County will re-issue a request for proposal next month for a 2.1 acre parcel in Milwaukee’s Park East corridor after Wangard Partners’ option on the property lapsed in May.

The land, at 320 E. Ogden Ave., known as Park East Block 22, is the last remaining site in the corridor that is still owned by the county.

Block 22 is bordered by Ogden, Milwaukee and Water streets and Broadway. It was previously a parking lot beneath the Park East freeway before the spur was demolished in 2002.

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Wangard was selected following an RFP process in December 2015, after submitting plans for a seven-story, $52 million mixed-use development for the site at 320 E. Ogden Ave. He planned to purchase the parcel for $2.4 million.

Wangard’s development was going to include 250 apartments and a retail component, anchored by a grocery store.

“This is a timing issue for us,” Wangard said. “This is a great site in a wonderful neighborhood. But we have plenty of other projects we want to go vertical in the next 12 months.”

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A rendering of the project Wangard had planned at Park East Block 22.

Wangard said he is focused on future phases of the Laacke & Joys Redevelopment at 1433 N. Water Street and a four-story condominium development project at North Water and East Brady streets along the Milwaukee River.

Aaron Hertzberg, director of economic development for Milwaukee County, said when the original RFP was issued by Milwaukee County, the land was appraised for $3.9 million.

Two years and several developments along North Water Street later, the land value is now $5 million, Hertzberg said.

“We are hopeful to get the maximized value for our taxpayers,” Hertzberg said, adding that while the city will have the final say about what is developed at the site, the county hopes it will be consistent with other development that has occurred in the neighborhood.

“We feel like we are in a position to bring the site back to market,” Hertzberg said.

Wangard said Block 22 presented challenges both from a physical and economic standpoint.

From the front to the back corner there is a 33-foot grade change, which can be developed, but presents issues, Wangard said.

Also, since putting the site under contract, Amazon acquired Whole Foods, changing the grocery store environment, he added.

“There are plenty of other uses that can go at that site, and it will have a good future,” Wangard said.

Block 22 is adjacent to the Wauwatosa-based developer’s Avenir Apartments, 1437 N. Jefferson St. which has been listed for sale. Wangard completed the first phase of the Avenir with 104 apartments, 7,000 square feet of commercial space and a parking structure in 2014. Wangard planned to build two additional phases. The five-story second phase would have included 82 apartments. A five-story third phase would have included 64 apartments.

Wangard said his partner, Chicago investor Richard Curto, has asked him to liquidate and offer the building for sale. Wangard is the majority owner in phase one, holds the mortgage in phase three and is a part-owner in phase two. Curto controls the land of phases two and three, Wangard said.

Curto, founder and chief executive officer of Gateway Investment Partners, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Wangard said he has renewed the building permits for phases two and three so if the property sells, everything is prepared to complete the final phases.

“Our company has a reputation as a long-term investor of real estate,” Wangard said. “This property has been incredibly successful. In one of the most competitive markets in the city we have been able to maintain 97 to 99 percent occupancy.”

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