Zilber tweaks plans for Pabst parking garage

Joseph Zilber, the founder of Milwaukee-based Zilber Ltd. who is redeveloping the former Pabst brewery complex in downtown Milwaukee, has adjusted his plans for a parking structure in the middle of the complex.

Under the new plans, an historic building that was going to be mostly demolished will now be preserved entirely and redeveloped. However, previous plans to preserve the facades of six other buildings have been scrapped.

The former Yeast Plant building (Building #7 in the complex) will be preserved and redeveloped. In Zilber’s previous plan, only the façade of the five-story, 27,340-square-foot building was to be preserved. The rest of the 89-year-old building was going to be demolished to clear space for the parking structure.

"We determined we were able to save (the building)," said Mike Mervis, Zilber’s assistant. "It has windows, which is the critical thing."

The structure will likely be redeveloped as an office building, and some potential buyers are already considering it, Mervis said. Zilber is gutting and selling off pieces of the brewery complex to other developers.

The only other building on the block that will be preserved is the 138,000-square-foot former keg house, located on the north end of the block, which Madison-based Gorman & Co. plans to convert into a complex of live-work loft apartments.

Zilber’s previous plans for the block included a 1,323-space parking structure surrounded by the facades of the existing buildings on the block.

However, Zilber was unable to obtain historic preservation tax credits for that plan and engineers warned that the facades would not be stable.

"Our engineering report came back and said that the risk of trying to do that (with the facades) is too high, both during demolition, construction and operation (after the project is complete)," Mervis said.

Under the latest plans for the block, six buildings will be completely demolished to make way for an 800-space parking structure. The buildings that will be demolished include: the 75-year-old former Tank Storage building at 902 W. Juneau Ave.; the 138-year-old former Stock House building at 908 W. Juneau Ave.; the 108-year-old former Stock House building at 1217 N. Ninth St.; the 60-year-old former Grain Processing House at 920 W. Juneau Ave.; the 60-year-old former Fermenting House at 926 W. Juneau Ave.; and the 118-year-old former Barrel Storage House at 12133 N. Ninth St.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission on Monday recommended approval of the demolition plans, which must be approved by the Common Council.

The new parking structure, smaller than originally planned, will occupy the eastern half of the block. The western half of the block will be landscaped until it is developed later with another parking structure, a building or a combination of the two, Mervis said.

"We will have the ability to build an additional parking garage for our tenants and buyers," he said.

Even without preserving the facades, the new parking structure will be able to fit in with the industrial theme of the neighborhood, Mervis said. The parking structure will also have about 9,000 square feet of street level retail space along Juneau Avenue and North Eighth Street.

"What we are hoping is the new design will have an industrial look and a mass that will preserve the canyon effect of Juneau Avenue," he said. "It will have the feel of a massive production facility, which is what was there."

Zilber hopes to begin work for the parking structure this summer and have it complete by spring or summer of 2009, Mervis said.

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