Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Council Approves East Side High Rise

After over a year of debate, the 27-story building is moving forward.

By - Sep 26th, 2017 11:00 am
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1550 N. Prospect Ave. Renderings

1550 N. Prospect Ave. Renderings

A controversial proposal for a new apartment high rise at 1550 N. Prospect Ave. was approved by the Common Council. The approval comes just over a year after the Common Council narrowly rejected a nearly identical proposal for the same site.

Madison-based developer Chris Houden and his firm DCH Properties are proposing a 27-story, 192-unit apartment tower on the site of the Goll Mansion. Architect Tom Miller, a principal at Kahler Slater, is leading the design of the $55 million project. It requires a zoning change because it roughly doubles the allowable building size for the site.

The proposed zoning change was subject to a protest petition by nearby property owners. The petition, as allowed as part of city statue, allows nearby property owners to mandate a three-fourths (12 vote) super majority of the Common Council to vote in favor of the project. Area alderman Robert Bauman has routinely opposed the project on the basis that it does not comply with the area’s comprehensive plan, while the Department of City Development has objected to his interpretation.

The project passed today with only council members Bauman and Jose G. Perez voting against it. Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs abstained from voting on the matter without explanation. Switching their votes from 2016 were council members Mark Borkowski and Tony Zielinski.

At issue with the revised proposal is the developer’s proposal to voluntary achieve a 20 percent participation rate with Residents Preference Program designed to employ un- or under-employed city residents and a 20 percent participation rate to certified Small Business Enterprises. Bauman proposed having the developer put $3.5 million in escrow to ensure compliance, but the City Attorney’s office rendered an opinion that such a move would be illegal. Bauman, speaking on the council floor on the matter today, noted that the promise should be discarded because it is unenforcable.

The proposal put two political allies and friends at odds. Ald. Nik Kovac represents the west side of the street with Bauman representing the east. Kovac noted that he routinely is on N. Prospect Ave., including biking it yesterday when Interstate 43 was closed and noted that it continued to function. He stated that Bauman’s assertion that it would be detrimental to public safety was inaccurate. Bauman, a former Prospect Ave resident, responded by stating “I am telling you that this will negatively impact quality of life on Prospect Ave.” Kovac has routinely voted in favor of the project, both at committee and at council, while Bauman has long been the project’s biggest opponent.

Houden has previously noted that he intends to use general contractor CD Smith to construct the building.

Opposition to the project was led by residents of the adjacent 1522 on the Lake condominium tower. The group had recently broadened their support to additional area residents and institutions.

The project would involve moving the historic Goll Mansion forward. That move, or actually moves, has already been approved by the Historic Preservation Commission. The house would first be moved backward, to allow the construction of a new foundation and then moved forward onto a new foundation. It has an estimated cost of $1.6 million.

Developer Chris Houden was in attendance at the Tuesday morning council meeting, as well as controversial project lobbyist and fire fighters union president Dave Seager (who has lobbied both for and against the project). As a sign of how invested Houden was in moving the project forward, even after being denied the zoning variance last year Houden went ahead and acquired the site and mansion from an affiliate of Dominion Properties for $1.6 million in October 2016.

For more background on the project, see my coverage from its approval at the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee last week.

In a release after the approval Houden stated “we are thrilled to be bringing a major new investment to the city of Milwaukee — adding a great new residential option to the East Side neighborhood and saving and restoring the historic Goll House. We are grateful for the support of the Council, as we all as the broad support we’ve received from the community.”

Revised Renderings

1550 Prior Renderings

Goll House – Interior

Goll House – Exterior

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10 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Approves East Side High Rise”

  1. Steve says:

    Looks like there will be some sweet deals on condo’s at 1522.

  2. Old Man Yells at Cloud says:

    Anyone at Kahler able to explain what what the hell is going on with the south elevation? Lot of noise there. I like what appears to be a corten clad volume that is on the east/west axis though.

  3. Jerad says:

    The only people that think this is controversial is the hypocritical asshats who live in 1522 Prospect.

  4. MikeB says:

    I understand that some may not want to live next to such a massive project and parking on Prospect is already tight, but if you live next to the downtown of a bigger city you can’t be surprised with increased density projects like this, I mean it’s prime real estate and in the long-run good for the city.

  5. Ed Werstein says:

    I live on the East side and I’m not opposed to this development. The mushrooming supply of residential availability is keeping my rent stable. However, there is a growing inequality in this city, and the major development investment seems to be going to a narrow strip along the lake from the 3rd ward to UWM. Our city is so much more than that. Like I said, I’m not opposed to this project, but surprised that there was not more opposition, or even discussion on the basis of inequity. A no vote from Alderwoman Coggs would have said more than the abstaining.

  6. East Side Resident says:

    “The only people that think this is controversial is the hypocritical asshats who live in 1522 Prospect.”

    Couldn’t agree more.

    With regard to the parking situation along Prospect, there are a plethora of buildings on Prospect that are so tired and dated and could be replaced with a 20 story parking structure that looks “residential”, modern, and aesthetically pleasing that serves a purpose. We live in a dense area of the city with NO PARKING STRUCTURES. The days of everyone trying to find street parking or a surface lot that holds 40 cars should be gone. A surface lot that currently holds 40 cars could ultimately serve 1000 cars if someone would have the foresight to build a high rise parking structure. I would much rather have consistent parking in a structure like that and have to walk 5 blocks home everyday from it vs. driving around for 30 min every night trying to squeeze into that elusive spot that opens up.

  7. Rich says:

    A no vote from Alderwoman Coggs would have said more than the abstaining.

    I’m to the point of almost voting for whomever runs against her because she, 1) can’t figure out how to take a stand on most of these issues, and / or 2) she’s just playing the “defer to local alderpeople” (plural because there’s apparently one on each side of Prospect for this particular development) game so she has no enemies and be council president after Ashanti becomes mayor.

    “If you don’t tell me what you think when you vote, I’ll tell you at the ballot”

  8. Adam says:

    @Ed Werstein

    “Like I said, I’m not opposed to this project, but surprised that there was not more opposition, or even discussion on the basis of inequity.”

    The city can’t tell developers where to invest. Developers will go where they see the greatest return on investment and the least risk. Unfortunately it’s going to be a few years still before that is a place like Lindsay Heights. In the meantime, the city partnering with non-profits are making significant investments in these areas.

  9. Ed Werstein says:

    @Adam
    “The city can’t tell developers where to invest.”

    I’m not naive. You missed my point. Even the little that could have been done wasn’t done. Only two voices raised in opposition. A “promise to try” to meet some goal of minority and disadvantaged employment and inclusion of minority owned businesses, but no guarantee. Bauman’s reasonable proposal of an escrow fund as a guarantee went nowhere. History tells me the goal will not be met and there will be some standard excuses thrown around about lack of available skills in the community, we tried, blah, blah. The Council could have at least tried to make this something that benefited the whole city and not just my neighborhood. It’s basically the same proposal for the same zoning changes that was rejected last time. All that happened in the interim is that a few lobbyists collected some extra money for changing some of the votes.

  10. Tim says:

    So we should make it harder and more expensive to add development to the East Side, to make it rain on poorer areas of the city?

    Saying it in a different way, we should overrule locals’ opposition to development when a cash payment is given to another area of the city? So, what happens when a developer wants to put up a 10 story condo building on 3rd and MLK Jr. and the developers promises to build a playground on 76th & Mill? Is that ok?

    Please, stop me if I misunderstand.

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