5 Wangard Projects to Watch For in 2016
A big year for the developer and proof the city's development momentum hasn't slowed.
Wangard Partners Inc. certainly has a lot of city projects queued up for 2016. Four of the projects will dramatically change the face of downtown Milwaukee’s northern edge, and the fifth is a part of the continuing development of Walker’s Point.
Here are the five projects worth watching for in 2016:
1. Freshwater Plaza: In October 2015, Wangard broke ground on Freshwater Plaza, 1320 S. 1st St., in Walker’s Point. The $48 million mixed-use development will include offices, 76 apartments and a Cermak’s Fresh Market grocery store. Michael Horne noted at the time that the project received $30 million in bank loans from U.S. Bank and Tri-City Bank, a $1 million grant from the state, $10 million in New Market Tax Credits, and $4.8 million in city Tax Incremental Financing. Additionally, there was $3.2 million in equity financing. Construction of Freshwater Plaza will continue throughout 2016.
2. Brady and Water: In early 2015 Wangard demolished Mike Mervis’s former home at 1693 N. Water St. and began demolition of the former Habhegger Wheel and Axle building, at the corner of N. Water and E. Brady streets. By May 2015 the firm had completed demolition. According to a November 2015 story by Horne, Wangard plans to develop an 89-unit complex on the recently cleared site. Wangard has received Board of Zoning Approval for the project but still needs the riverwalk design approved by the city. This project is unique because the design attempts to capitalize on its proximity to Swing Park. According to Dorothy Snow, marketing director for Wangard, this project is planned to break ground in May 2016.
3. Laacke & Joys: In July 2015 Sean Ryan of the Business Journal reported that Wangard was attempting to acquire the former Laacke & Joys property. Its plan would convert the existing building to an office use while a larger 200,000-square-foot building would replace an existing warehouse. Burton Metz, Wangard vice president, told Ryan the new building could be more mixed-use. In addition, a small 8,000-square-foot building could be renovated and used as a restaurant space. Snow informs Urban Milwaukee that construction is supposed to start on this project in the spring.
4. Avenir Phase II: In February 2015 the first phase of the Avenir, a mixed-use building with 104 luxury apartments and 7,045 square feet of ground level retail space opened. According to Snow, the apartments are already 90 percent leased and should be 95 percent leased by the end of the first quarter. Last week Wangard President Wayne Wiertzema told Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel that the firm plans to begin construction on the 82-unit second phase of the Avenir this spring. The Avenir complex is located at 1437 N. Jefferson St. in the Park East.
5. Park East Block 22: The big Wangard news came last week when county executive Chris Abele announced that the firm intends to purchase Park East Block 22 for $2.4 million and develop a $47 million mixed-use residential complex. Block 22 is just west of the Avenir complex and bounded by N. Water St., N. Milwaukee St., E. Ogden Ave., and N. Broadway. This site was formerly planned to be developed by the joint venture of Opus Development Company LLC and Mercy Housing Lakefront, but that $60 million project fell through. At the time Wangard had also responded to a county request for proposals for the site but was denied by the county as it appeared the company intended to request Tax Incremental Financing from the city.
The current plan includes 250 apartments and 70,000 square feet of retail space. The high-end apartments would include granite counter tops, hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances. The complex would include a fitness center, rooftop terraces, a common green area, patios, 450 enclosed parking spots and possibly a Bublr Bikes bike-share station. Twenty percent of the apartments in the first phase would be set aside for affordable housing.
The land sale not yet complete, but only needs the additional approval of county comptroller Scott Manske. Under the new state law giving the county executive more control over land sales, approval by Abele and either the comptroller or head of the county’s Intergovernmental Cooperation Council are all that’s needed; the county board has no say over these deals.
Snow tells Urban Milwaukee that “Wangard is anticipating to start on this development later in 2016 at the earliest.”
In Other News
–The Couture, a $122 million mixed-use tower that will include 302 high-end apartments, a streetcar stop, and retail, faces another delay. Teig Whaley-Smith, county administration director, told Daykin of the Journal Sentinel that the Downtown Transit Center, 909 E. Michigan St., won’t be sold to Developer Rick Barrett until the end of March due to negotiations with the Federal Transit Administration.
–Congress voted to extend the EB-5 program through September 30th, 2016. The program allows for foreign investors to receive Green Cards in exchange for a $500,000 to $1 million investment and the creation or retention of 10 US jobs. According to an NBCNews story by Chris Fuchs 95 percent of these investments have gone into real estate development projects across the U.S.