Wangard plans redevelopment of former downtown Laacke & Joys site

Wauwatosa-based real estate firm Wangard Partners Inc. has a contract to purchase the former Laacke & Joys property in downtown Milwaukee and is working on plans for a redevelopment project for the site, chairman and chief executive officer Stewart Wangard said.

The redevelopment project could include office, retail and restaurant space, Wangard said. The company is marketing the property to potential tenants.

The first priority for the project is to restore the historic former Laacke & Joys building, which is a four-story, 64,826-square-foot, 141-year-old structure located at 1433 N. Water St. Wangard said the firm is in talks with multiple potential tenants for the building.

The Wangard project could also include new buildings on either side of the former Laacke & Joys building. A warehouse northeast of the building will be demolished to create a site that could accommodate a 200,000-square-foot building, Wangard said.

The 6,000-square-foot Peck garage building is located to the southwest of the former Laacke & Joys building. That building could be converted to a restaurant with outdoor seating along the Milwaukee River, Wangard said.

Otherwise, the Peck garage building could be demolished and a high rise with perhaps 200,000 to 400,000 square feet of space could be built on the site, Wangard said. However, to build a high-rise there a parking solution would have to be determined, he said.

Laacke & Joys ended manufacturing operations in the main building on the site in 2013 and closed its store in the building in early 2014.

The Peck family bought the Laacke & Joys property in 2012 for about $2.6 million. Wangard said his firm has had a contract to purchase the property from the Peck family for several months.

Wangard’s project for the site is just the latest of several that have been built, are under construction or are being planned for the area near Water Street on the north side of downtown. The former Laacke & Joys property sits just southwest of Mandel Group Inc.’s multi-phase North End development, which will have 650 apartments when it’s fully developed. Wangard built the Avenir Apartments building at 1437 N. Jefferson St., about two blocks east of the Laacke & Joys site. The Avenir building has 104 apartments and 7,000 square feet of retail space and is the first phase of a three-phase development that Wangard plans to build on the block.

Nearby plans for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks and a planned office building development northwest of Water and Knapp streets by Brookfield-based Hammes Company have also increased the interest of potential tenants in the Laacke & Joys site, Wangard said.

“(Those projects) are reinforcing the desirability of the neighborhood,” he said. “Milwaukee is on a roll. A lot of office users are considering downtown. There is momentum building.”

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