Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

City Panel Okays Second Casino Tower

New 19-story hotel tower plus expanded convention space gets its first approval.

By - Jul 18th, 2017 06:01 pm
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Tower Plan for Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. Rendering by Cunningham Group.

Tower Plan for Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. Rendering by Cunningham Group.

A second tower for the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino got a unanimous thumbs-up from the City Plan Commission on Monday. The 19-story tower isn’t the only change coming to the Menomonee Valley casino, though: An additional 70,000 square-foot infill development will better connect the hotel and casino and expand Potawatomi’s ability to host weddings, banquets and conventions.

The second tower appears to have always been a matter of when, not if it should be built. Zimmerman Architectural Studios president and CEO David Stroik told the commission that ever the since the first tower was built “the plinth has always been there.” Indeed, the L-shaped base of the first tower at 1611 W. Canal St. has looked ready for further development ever since the hotel first opened in 2014.

Stroik answered the question on everyone’s mind when he said, “why are the Potawatomi looking at this? They just need more rooms, specifically they need more suites.” To that end they’re planning a 115,000 square-foot, 19-story tower with 119 rooms. When complete, it will bring the total room count in the complex to 500.

The proposal submitted by the tribe also reflects a desire for more flexibility in the future. If approved by the full Common Council, the tribe will be able to reconfigure the two towers to hold up to 580 rooms, presumably by reducing the suite count, without having to seek another zoning change. Stroik noted this in his presentation: “it’s possible there could be some future phases as well, that’s why you see a range from 119 to 179 in the room count.” The suites in the new tower are planned for the eastern-most portion of the tower and are framed by darker glass than the rest of the tower.

The 70,000 square-foot addition will fill the gap between the casino and the hotel. The hotel itself, which sits on land the tribe acquired from Badger Railing, is currently connected only by a walkway to the casino. The four-story addition will connect the base of the hotel to the casino and add a substantial amount of event space and “back of the house” functionality.

The project team, led by the Forest County Potawatomi Community, had a large contingent at Monday’s public hearing on the project. While Stroik was the only member to speak, he noted that a number of other team members were in attendance including lobbyist Michael D’Amato and representatives from the casino, law firm Godfrey & Kahn and engineering firm GRAEF.

Minneapolis-based Cunningham Group is leading the building’s design, with Zimmerman serving as the local architect of record. Potawatomi’s Greenfire Management Services will lead the construction of the project. The hotel is expected to open in 2019.

Ken Kraemer, executive director of Building Advantage, spoke in favor of the proposal which he believes will create lots of union jobs. Kraemer stated “a project like this could create about 2,100 jobs and half of those would be directly in construction.” That’s good news for the approximately 20,000 members that Kraemer and Building Advantage represent. Dreamer’s numbers, however, don’t come close to matching those in project documents submitted to the city. A document submitted by the project team notes “the proposed project will add approximately 50 more full-time employment positions.” The proposal for the first hotel tower saw the hotel add 230 jobs to the 2,900 already in existence at the 772,000 square-foot casino.

The hotel is subject to municipal property taxes. It is currently assessed at $59,500,000 and had a $1.7 million property tax bill last year.

Renderings

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2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: City Panel Okays Second Casino Tower”

  1. John says:

    A real monument to 1960s architecture. Mediocre.

  2. leah says:

    Another great sign for the city. More tourists, more jobs, more investment.

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