Brewery Building Is a Go
The five-story Professional Center building got final approval for construction at the old Pabst Brewery.
It’s a go. The proposed five-story office building we reported on previously gained its final approval today for construction at the former Pabst Brewery. The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) unanimously approved a certificate of appropriateness to create a 60,000 square-foot building. No Common Council approval is required because the building already conforms to zoning requirements for the Brewery Project where it will be located. The office building will be developed by Gorman & Company of Oregon, WI, and will be called The Professional Center. Gorman is in discussion with a few potential tenants, but has yet to secure a lease with any.
The site, at the northeast corner of Juneau Ave and N. 11th St., is currently vacant. It was last occupied by a power plant facility for the Pabst Brewery. That facility was demolished when the Zilber Property Group took control of the complex.
Gorman & Co. hopes to take advantage of the building’s proximity to the Milwaukee County Courthouse to land a mix of tenants. In addition, the firm hopes to utilize one-floor as a serviced office center and executive office suite. They believe this space with shared facilities, similar in setup to what national firm Regus offers, will work in tandem with the Brewhouse Inn & Suites, an extended-stay hotel Gorman is developing next door. Gorman has already renovated the former Pabst keg house located a few blocks southeast into the Blue Ribbon Lofts apartments.
Given that the project has already assembled financing from Chinese investors via the EB-5 program, it seems likely the building will break ground in October as planned.
There was not a lengthy discussion by the members of the Historic Preservation Comission regarding the project, partly due to the fact that three members were absent (Chair Allyson Nemec, Ald. Bauman and Randy Brant).
Two questions arose about the building’s first floor. City of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Planner Paul Jakubovich had some issues about its design, which Gorman addressed. Jakubovich also noted that covered parking is ideal, but since the plan is for natural ventilation with open-air parking on the first floor, he could live with that, as the alternative of some kind of screening was less desirable.
HPC Vice Chair Matt Jarosz noted that The Professional Center’s design has “nice, sensitive historic qualities to it.” But Blair Williams, who ultimately motioned for approval, stated “I just wish they could put another couple of floors on it.”
The Professional Center is being financed by Chinese investors through the EB-5 program. The program creates a method for foreign nationals to obtain a visa, and ultimately a green card by investing at least $500,000 in a project that creates at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers. Gorman was able to raise the funds by using Chinese contact Ying Chan.
The EB-5 program is becoming an increasingly common financing mechanism in Milwaukee. Gorman used the program on their Brewhouse Inn. The controversial Marriott Hotel on Milwaukee Street is also being financed primarily through the program.
I had previously reported the building would need approval from the Common Council and Mayor. That is not the case. Given that the building is in the Brewery Project – Development Incentive Zone Overlay District and a historic district, Gorman only needed a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission and approval of site plans and elevations from the City Plan Commission. If either approvals had been denied, the developer could have appealed to the Common Council. The Professional Center now has the required approvals to move forward.