Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Apartment Hunting in Milwaukee

A close-up look at eight new apartment buildings in Milwaukee.

By - Aug 3rd, 2016 02:03 pm
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Apartments in Milwaukee

Apartments in Milwaukee

It’s no secret that Milwaukee is in the midst of an apartment building boom. New projects range from conversions of former warehouses and office buildings to new construction. The new apartments come packaged with amenities ranging from party rooms and workshops to basketball courts and yoga rooms. While every project is different, they all have a unifying factor: they’re in walkable neighborhoods and being able to walk to nearby amenities is a key part of the pitch to potential tenants.

While thousands of units are in the pipeline, take a sampling of eight recently profiled projects.

Aperture Apartments

The project, which represents the third phase of the Mandel Group‘s The North End, brings an additional 168 apartments to Milwaukee’s Lower East Side and helps fill the hole in development between Downtown and the vibrant Brady Street corridor. In addition, the project includes the first Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery store in Wisconsin. See the full story.

  • Fun Fact: The building is packed with amenities, including a party room, lounge space, fitness center with yoga room and a grocery store. Should you need to leave, the building is next a Bublr Bikes station and the Milwaukee RiverWalk.
  • Unit Types: Studio, One Bedroom, Two Bedroom
  • Rent Range: $1,275-$2,800
  • Neighborhood: Lower East Side
  • Opened: March 2016
  • Developer: Mandel Group
  • Architect: HGA Architects

Belay Apartments

The Mandel Group‘s Belay Apartments combines a four-story, 18,000 square-foot Adventure Rock climbing gym with 46 high-end apartments. (“Belay” is a climbing term for an anchoring place or ledge.) Designed by local firm Johnsen Schmaling Architects, the unusual combination of uses lends itself to a building design that is far from standard for new construction in town. Learn more.

  • Fun Fact: All residents receive a membership to the attached Adventure Rock climbing gym.
  • Unit Types: One Bedroom, Two Bedroom
  • Rent Range: $1,245-$2,345
  • Neighborhood: Riverwest / Beerline B
  • Opened: July 2016
  • Developer: Mandel Group
  • Architect: Johnsen Schmaling Architects

Brix Apartment Lofts

A former south side candy factory at 408 W. Florida St. is now home to nearly 100 apartment dwellers, another step in the transformation of Walker’s Point. The Brix Apartment Lofts, developed by Hovde Properties, is a 98-unit apartment building and a great example of the impact of historic preservation tax credits. See the full story.

  • Fun Fact: Should the building’s historic use as a candy factory lead you to eating too much chocolate, there are four Brix-branded Fyxation bicycles available for tenants to access the neary Hank Aaron State Trail.
  • Unit Types: One Bedroom, Two Bedroom, Three Bedroom
  • Rent Range: $1,150-$1,950
  • Neighborhood: Walker’s Point
  • Opened: June 2015
  • Developer: Hovde Properties
  • Architect: The Kubala Washatko Architects

The Buckler

Out go the cubicles, in come the queen beds. Chicago developers breathed new life into a long-vacant office building by converting it to high-end apartments. Built as the Milwaukee office for insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield in 1978, the 11-story, modernist tower at 401 W. Michigan St. had been vacant since 2006. Now known as The Buckler, it’s home to 207 apartments ranging from first-floor, townhouse-style units to penthouses with lake and skyline views. Learn more.

  • Fun Fact: The building includes an indoor basketball court and batting cage in addition to a fitness center.
  • Unit Types: Studio, One Bedroom, Two Bedroom
  • Rent Range: $1,175-$2,935
  • Neighborhood: Westown
  • Opened: November 2015
  • Developer: Phoenix Development Partners and CA Ventures
  • Architect: Dimension IV

King Lofts

Things are different in Bay View these days, and there might not be a better example of that than a tattoo-shop-and-laundromat being converted to high-end apartments. Led by developer Scott Genke, the King Lofts is a 14-unit apartment project in a converted building on Bay View’s main street, S. Kinnickinnic Ave. See the full story.

  • Fun Fact: The building has been through many iterations, car dealership, tattoo parlor, offices, laundromat and now apartments. That evolution is sure to continue with the live-work units already attracting a pottery studio. More creative uses are certain to follow.
  • Unit Types: One Bedroom, One-Bedroom Live-Work, Two Bedroom
  • Rent Range: $1,295-$1,795
  • Neighborhood: Bay View
  • Opened: July 2016
  • Developer: SG Property Development
  • Architect: Gallus Architects

Mercantile Lofts

More residents are coming to Walker’s Point thanks to an adaptive reuse project in one of the neighborhood’s landmark buildings. The 36-unit apartment project occupies what was long known as the International Building at the southwest corner of S. 6th St. and W. National Ave. Prior to the redevelopment project taking place, the city seized the building via property tax foreclosure. The office building had fallen into very poor condition, as Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority executive director Wyman Winston observed. As he put in his speech at the ribbon cutting (hopefully with a bit of hyperbole): “the first time I was here there was no roof and when I left I think I might have been radioactive.” See the full story.

  • Fun Fact: Friends will never have trouble finding your apartment from the south, a massive mural covers the building entire southern facade that is highly visible from the freeway.
  • Unit Types: One Bedroom, Two Bedroom
  • Rent Range: $975-$1,600
  • Neighborhood: Walker’s Point
  • Opened: July 2016
  • Developer: Northpointe Development
  • Architect: Excel Engineering

MKE Lofts

It’s hard to get closer to the middle of Downtown than the intersection of W. Wisconsin and N. Plankinton avenues. Yet, despite being in the middle of the action, the seven-story Posner Building sat almost entirely vacant for years. Not anymore. Built in 1908, the building’s sole tenant was Mo’s Irish Pub until a recent renovation by HKS Holdings. That renovation turned the building’s upper floors, previously office space, into 105 apartments known as the MKE Lofts. See the full story.

  • Fun Fact: The building was originally built on speculation as a department store. That store never materialized, but current residents get to take advantage of extremely large windows.
  • Unit Types: Studio, One Bedroom, Two Bedroom
  • Rent Range: $1,000-$2,000
  • Neighborhood: Westown
  • Opened: September 2015
  • Developer: HKS Holdings
  • Architect: Engberg Anderson

Trio Apartments

What if high-end living could be a bit more affordable? Developer Tim Gokhman, with partners Jim Wiechmann and Michael Sanfelippo, set out to deliver just that with the Trio Apartments. The 120-unit, three-building apartment complex in Walker’s Point is designed with a focus on efficiency of space. Located between S. 1st and S. 2nd streets, the complex when completed will have 32 studio, 72 one-bedroom and 16 two-bedroom apartments. Tenants have begun moving into the first building and the final building is scheduled to open in October. See the full story.

  • Fun Fact: Studio units come with a built in queen bed/dining table conversion unit that helps maximize space.
  • Unit Types: Studio, One Bedroom, Two Bedroom
  • Rent Range: $1,100-$1,595
  • Neighborhood: Walker’s Point
  • Opened: July 2016
  • Developer: Partnership of Tim Gokhman, Jim Wiechmann, and Michael Sanfelippo
  • Architect: Kindness Architecture

17 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Apartment Hunting in Milwaukee”

  1. Jerad says:

    May want to change Aperture’s neighborhood to The Lower East Side.

  2. Cal Resid says:

    Good to see all the low income housing being developed in the 3rd and 5th ward,.Looking forward to more lectures on what “we” must do in the rest of the city to create ‘fairness’.

    How about sending a few squad cars to the dramatically underpoliced NW side, and provide some low income housing near Urban MKE’s HQ.?

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @Cal In fact we’re just up the street from City Hall Square Apartments which has WHEDA low-income tax credit apartments. And it would be great for the neighborhood to have more affordable units as well.

  4. ms. ann thrope says:

    The Mercantile Lofts began life as Kroeger’s department store, a reminder that Sixth and National,
    a major streetcar junction, was once a substantial retail district. It also explains the large windows and
    generous ceilings in the building today. .

  5. Andy says:

    How do these places justify these rent prices?

  6. Sean says:

    People that complain about the rent being expensive downtown are so ridiculous. No kidding its expensive it’s downtown! Food is more expensive downtown, beer is more expensive downtown, everything is more expensive downtown. Its a highly desired area so your going to pay a premium for it. The same concept with anything that has a premium perceived value. You get everything that come with any other apartment, BUT its a downtown apartment. If you don’t want to pay a lot for an apartment you unfortunately don’t get to live down town, if you don’t want to pay a ton of money for a car you don’t drive a Ferrari do you?

  7. AG says:

    Andy, it’s justified because that’s what people will pay. Usually on the new apartment projects, if they don’t charge what they charge then the projects would never happen. But if renters are renting them up then there must be enough people out there who think it’s justifiable.

  8. Ron says:

    It’s mind boggling to read someone complaining about housing development and high prices. The gentrification of abandoned buildings is something to celebrate. While some may see the cost to rent as too high, the fact is that when people who can afford the rent move in, the entire neighborhood benefits. Mikwaukee’s historic mistake in these matters is romanticize the past, like it does over Brady Street and North Avenue, or complaining that things are too expensive until no developer wants to take the risk. Milwaukee needs to embrace change and stop being so cheap. Developing these old buildings is a huge win for us all.

  9. Lamont says:

    Great more apartment complexes that will just stay vacant because nobody can afford the rent..did everyone forget that the poverty level in Milwaukee is 68%

  10. Dave Reid says:

    @Lamont These apartments are simply not staying vacant. In fact the demand for these apartments in Milwaukee is still pretty strong.

  11. Lamonte says:

    @ Dave

    Yes there are, i used to live on the east side, many of these builder get lots of money from the city to build these units that very offen stay vacant and become an attraction for bumms

    The rents for these apartments are way out of step with will be unbelievable high level of poverty the city has ( 68% )

    The city would be better off putting a freeze on these building projects until the high level of poverty has been addressed

  12. Dave Reid says:

    @Lamonte Can you point to some actual examples of the city giving money to an apartment building project and then the property sitting vacant? I can’t point to any, at all.

    The apartment market in Milwaukee is actually very tight (as the data shows) http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2016/01/29/eyes-on-milwaukee-apartment-vacancies-hit-10-year-low/

    Now, it is true that during the fallout from the Great Recession there were unsold condos which sat vacant but that market has come a long ways back and sales volumes are solid http://urbanmilwaukee.com/pressrelease/mandel-group-releases-mid-year-analysis-of-downtown-condominium-activity/ . Still a ways to go before new condos will be built, but it’s not likely there are many units just sitting around anymore.

    Finally, freeing development (not even sure how that would legally happen) would be awful for the city. Depending on the length of the freeze it would force a spike in property taxes (note the mill rate increases during the recession), deeper cuts to services and so on…

  13. Sean says:

    @Lamonte I lease apartments in downtown Milwaukee and I can guarantee these apartments are not sitting vacant. Most of them hover around a 93-97% occupancy rate. The Sage on Prospect just opened with all but 4 units leased. The poverty rate has nothing to do with the downtown apartment boom and the benefits the developers get from the city are grants for providing a percentage of the building to lower income residents. If all of these buildings are failing then why would they continue to be build, your logic is off.

  14. fred says:

    And the city’s poverty rate is about 29% (according to 2014 American Community Survey estimates). Still too high, and should be addressed, but far short of 68%.

  15. BT says:

    I’m not going to totally disagree with Lamonte’s comments, because the disparity between the booming downtown (and 3rd Ward, Lower East Side, etc) as far as apartments go and the off the charts prices for homes on the east side and north shore vs prices for the few # of homes sold on the near north side is massive. There was one very nice, but not particularly remarkable WFB home on a postage stamp sized lot, that recently had an accepted offer on the FIRST DAY of the listing for over $800k.

    Yet, WHAT exactly can gov’t do to offer a long term solution to poverty? When any level of gov’t, be it city, county, state or federal do kick in a few $ on these projects (which usually is more in the form of loan guarantees, NOT just handouts to the developers)-the $$ spent outright by the various levels of gov’t such as for the Couture is to remove the total eyesore that gov’t in its infinite wisdom decided was a great idea for prime lakefront land (yeah a cement walled bus garage-what a GREAT IDEA! Then, top it off with restaurant/bar space that you’d THINK would be an A-1 prime spot biz owners would be fighting over, yet they couldn’t keep the place open to save their lives!) as well as street and sidewalk fixes, changes, etc.

    This money does provide jobs, construction jobs and keeps that segment of the economy moving along, plus having the nice housing stock, whether it is for apartments or homes (and watch, if and when the rental market cools off, you’ll see many of these apartments converted to condos) yet the vast majority of construction jobs require specific skills and if job seekers don’t possess any of these specific skills, you can’t hire someone as a welder or carpenter if they don’t have welding or carpentry skills. Other than hiring for the limited number of jobs where people work directly for city, county or state gov’t, what else can they do? It is the private sector that creates jobs and these gov’t loan guarantees, etc help to create those jobs.

    We’ve even had local unions advertising on the radio, internet, etc looking for people to enter their apprenticeship programs when they can’t fill them and I can guarantee you that any non-union skilled person able to provide a needed service will certainly find work as well, yet if you don’t have those skills to offer you will be hard pressed to find work!

  16. Lamonte says:

    American Community Survey estimates count gov programs ( ie EBT, WIC ) has income, which it is not.

    Has a retail storemanger for many years a 2 diffent stores, that needed very heavy city subsidy just to keep the doors open…..the income level is not here to justify these type of projects.

    I get it that folks want high-dollar apartments downtown, and that’s ok, but theres no return on that investment, given that the people that will live in those units will not support greater downtown area ( they don’t shop, they don’t eat out, they do nothing here, no money is spent in the area ) & it’s turning downtown Milwaukee is turning into a bedroom community.

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