Downtown Milwaukee high-rise apartment building considered
A Chicago developer is exploring the possibility of building a luxury apartment high-rise on the eastern edge of downtown Milwaukee.
Carroll Properties of Chicago says it is in the early stages of developing a 31- to 33-story apartment building with 224 to 270 rental units as well as 10,000 square feet of street-level retail space at N. Van Buren St. and E. Kilbourn Ave., site of the long-closed Edwardo’s Pizza restaurant.
Bob King, president of Carroll Properties, said the company has held very preliminary talks with city officials. The company is awaiting results of market studies to determine more specifics about the proposed development and whether it makes sense to move forward.
The site is about three blocks west of Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan shoreline.
“We think it’s a very good site, and we think it’s going to be able to attract an upscale renter who wants to live in a walk-to-everything site,” King said. “It’s one of the best development sites I’ve seen in a very, very long time, with its proximity to everything.”
So far, he said, he has been impressed with the reception he has received in Milwaukee. This would be the company’s first development here.
“The city staff has been so encouraging, welcoming and helpful, I said, ‘Let’s give this a try,'” he said. “We’ve been scouting other sites in Milwaukee and hope to do a lot of work up there.”
No formal plans have been filed, although the architect on the project, Fitzgerald Associates of Chicago, has held preliminary talks with Milwaukee city planners, said Jeff Fleming, a spokesman for the Department of City Development.
As far as financing for the project, “we’re down the road on that, too,” King said. He said at least two institutional investors are interested, but nothing has been finalized.
King said initial studies have shown the rental units would be viable.
“There is already a robust apartment market there,” he said. “We think there is a market for these kinds of units.”
Market a question
Russell Kashian, a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater economics professor who tracks residential real estate in Wisconsin, said there are people willing to rent upscale apartments in Milwaukee, but he isn’t sure about the size of that market. “I just don’t know how underserved it is,” he said.
As far as the retail space planned as part of the project, Kashian said it might need to be adjusted.
“Ten thousand square feet is a lot of retail,” he said. “You’d be surprised how big that is.”
King said Carroll Properties has a contract to purchase the site. “We anticipate a year-end close,” he said.
The most optimistic forecast would have construction starting during the first quarter of 2015, but that would depend on weather, financing and a host of other details that would need to be finalized before work would begin.
Ald. Bob Bauman, whose downtown district includes the proposed building, said he visited a King development just underway in Evanston, Ill., and came away impressed.
“The guy appears to be quite legitimate,” Bauman said Thursday. “It looks like a nice design.”
Bauman said he did not know how King planned to finance the proposed Milwaukee development but said the plan would be an improvement on previous efforts to develop the property.
Previous plan collapsed
A plan to build an apartment development on the site fell through several years ago when the nation’s housing and credit markets imploded.
The first phase of that previous plan called for a 19-story building with 224 apartments. The proposal fell apart in 2009 when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development declined the developers’ request for a loan guarantee to help finance the $60 million project, known as Bookends North.
King declined to provide an estimate of the value of his proposal.
“It’s too early to talk about dollars yet,” he said. “We’re still doing our pricing.”
The proposal must go through the Plan Commission. In addition, the Common Council would need to approve amendments to the general plan development for the site, as well as amendments for a detailed plan for the site.