Jeramey Jannene
Hard Hat Tour

North Avenue Boomtown

Three different projects will together remake E. North Avenue. Our photos capture the progress.

By - Jan 23rd, 2014 10:29 am
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Three unique apartment buildings are under construction on E. North Ave in the heart of Milwaukee’s East Side. While none of the projects are large enough to change the feel of the neighborhood by itself, the three together will dramatically reshape it. Out goes an empty lot, suburban-style library, and long dead shopping mall. In comes jobs, residents, and new commercial space. Coupled with recent developments in the area including the expanded Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital, Whole Foods, Latitude apartments, Downer Garage, Cambridge Commons, and Educator’s Credit Union branch, the couple block stretch would be nearly unrecognizable to former residents.

We’ve been tracking the neighborhood changes, but this seems the perfect time to check in on the construction project of the three projects. The closed Prospect Mall is being converted to a mixed-use building, with the historic building having four floors added on top. The East Library has been demolished, to be replaced by The Standard at East Library, a project that will bring residents, a new library and property tax revenue to the city. The former Pizza Man site, a location that after the devastating 2010 fire seemed like it might never recover, will include apartments and retail space, while the restaurant has found a new home on Downer Ave.

Prospect Mall Apartments

Built originally as an auto dealership, the building (2217 N. Prospect Ave) which dates back to 1912 was converted to a shopping mall in 1976 (with multiple levels). We went inside last year as the remnants of the mall were being removed (photo gallery). The grandson of Prospect Mall developer George Bockl, Robert Joseph, is leading the conversion of the building into an apartment building. The hideous EIFS facade has been removed from the old structure, exposing the original (now rehabbed) brick, and will provide 10,000 square-feet of retail space (already partially occupied by Potbelly’s) with some parking spaces as well. Four new floors are under construction on top of the building, which will contain 52 apartments.

The Standard at East Library

The Standard at East Library (1910 E. North Ave) is the most legally complex of all North Avenue projects. The East Library occupied the site since the 1950’s in a squat, one-story building that was functionally obsolete. Following a bidding process, the city transferred the site to a development team of HSI Properties and WiRED Properties for a token fee. In return, the developers must demolish the library and create an empty, 16,000 square-feet, first floor condominium space to be used as the new East Library. The deal works financially because the developers are also able to place apartments and a small retail space on the site. The city gets tax revenue from previously government-owned land, as well as a new, far more energy-efficient and patron-friendly library. The development will include 99 apartments as well as underground and covered first floor parking.

1800 E. North Ave

The apartment building (1800 E. North Ave) under construction on the corner of North and Oakland avenues, which will reclaim this site destroyed by fire, is another Robert Joseph project. This was the last to start of the three North Avenue projects, receiving its final approval in October after a lengthy design review process. The project will include 6,000 square-feet of commercial space, 39 apartments, and 36 parking spaces when completed. Blair Williams, WiRED Properties, is also involved in the development in addition to helping with The Standard at East Library.

Photos by Rose Balistreri. Additional images of Prospect Mall supplied by Keith Prochnow.

One thought on “Hard Hat Tour: North Avenue Boomtown”

  1. The lower right photograph of 1800 E. North shows, at its right edge, ( just below the building) a boulder that had been dug up on the site and is awaiting its fate. This glacial remnant is likely proof that the excavation for the new building made its way into what contractors delightfully call “virgin dirt.” The Avenir, now under construction on the Park East Freeway site, also turned up quite a number of large boulders. These granite reminders of the Ice Age traveled down here from Canada and were out of the light for over ten thousand years. Sometimes they make nice landscaping elements, but they are not particularly portable.

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