Michael Horne
House Confidential

Herb Kohl’s Regency Condo

The former U.S. Senator (call him Herschel) is on the 27th floor of what was once the elite tower in town.

By - Aug 2nd, 2013 05:03 pm
Regency House Condominiums.

Regency House Condominiums.

Milwaukee Bucks owner and former 3-term U.S. Senator Herbert H. Kohl has lived in a unit on the 27th and top floor of the 1968 Regency House Condominiums since at least 1976, when he was about 40 years old and chairman of the State of Wisconsin Democratic party. At the time he served as an executive of the Kohl Corporation, which consisted of 50 grocery stores and a small number of department stores. It would not  be until 1985 that Kohl bought the Milwaukee Bucks, and another three years until he was elected to the senate.

Although there are 8 addresses on the top floor of the Regency, these have been combined into a total of four units over the years. There are 171 others spread throughout 25 floors of the building. Some are quite dinky, as small as 653 square feet, so you can see why many have been combined.

Herb’s elevator mates include Gary P. Grunau, owner of Schlitz Park and other properties, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Music Director Edo de Waart, former broadcaster Ed Hinshaw, builder Ralph LaMacchia, auto dealer Gordon A. Boucher, Jr., city of Milwaukee budget director Mark Nicolini, and developer/financier Frank Giuffre, who might even have a greater net worth than Kohl’s reported $279 million.

The building was constructed by Hunzinger Construction Company (which also remodeled it in 2004).  It has since been surpassed by other high-rises both as to height and elegance, (not to mention unit square footage)  but still remains a prized address, even though you can pick up a unit there for just $84,900. The construction of the 31-story Kilbourn Tower in 2002 caused some consternation among residents, who feared they might lose their panoramic views of the city.

Herb’s home is 2,046 square feet, and it has two full bathrooms and one half-bath. The unit appears to be customized for the bachelor lifestyle, since it has but one bedroom. There is an outdoor pool for when Herb wants to take a splash in season, but the building lacks such amenities as tennis courts and club house. It is air-conditioned. It is assessed at $70,300 for the land and $322,900 for the improvements, for a total of $393,200. Taxes are $11,697.61, and are paid in full by Herbert H. Kohl, Trustee, c/o Herbert H. Kohl 2010 Trust, 825 N. Jefferson St.

Herb owned the property in his own name until it was transferred to the trust in 2010. At the time the unit was valued at $530,100. Since then, it has really taken a hit, dropping to $457,200 in 2011 before reaching its recent low current assessment valuation.

The building has had some rough times along the way. I recollect (but cannot immediately find) an article mentioning that bandits had once entered Kohl’s apartment by vaulting off the roof and onto his balcony many years ago.

In November 1983, Gregory Hill, known as the “High Rise Bandit” for his assaults on Chicago buildings, paid a visit to the Regency House and robbed four residents there, whom he then imprisoned in the trunks of their vehicles in the basement garage. Hill was later jailed in Chicago, but he broke out on March 24th, 1984. He later surrendered himself to reporter Russ Ewing, who made a career of this sort of thing, with a total of 64 fugitives surrendering to police while under the journalist’s protection.

Fun Fact: People who live in luxury high-rises often title their residences to trusts and other vehicles. Herb’s neighbor in units 2705-2707 is Regency 2707 LLC, a firm that is registered to Kevin Kalnins, a partner in K&L Trust Co. of Milwaukee, with an address of 825 N. Jefferson St., Suite 350. This is the same address as the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation, which awards $1,000 scholarships annually to 200 students, 100 teachers and 100 schools in Wisconsin.

Herb’s Superb Milk House Returns!

With Kohl’s retirement from the senate at the beginning of this year, there was concern whether his Herb’s Superb Milk House, a Wisconsin State Fair staple for 25 years, would be back. The Milk House, which sold exclusively flavored milk, was run as a campaign adjunct to Kohl, and he could often be seen at the fair greeting customers, and reliving his days in the grocery store. The Milk House has returned to the fair this year, where it now serves as a marketing vehicle for the Milwaukee Bucks.

About Herb Kohl

Herb Kohl is a Milwaukee native, born on February 7th 1935, which makes him the junior partner in his friendship with House Confidential honoree Allen H. “Bud” Selig, his college roommate and now commissioner of Major League Baseball, who was born July 30th, 1934. Herb grew up on the west side in a solid, middle-class home on N. 51st Blvd., about a football field away from the Selig home on N. 52nd St. Both went to Sherman and Steuben grade and middle schools, followed by Washington High School and the University of Wisconsin. (Herb was playing baseball at Sherman on the day Franklin D. Roosevelt died, according to a Kurt Chandler profile in Milwaukee Magazine.)  Kohl worked with his father Max Kohl as the former grew his grocery store into a mighty chain. But, even as the owner, Herb could be seen in the aisles sweeping up broken pickle jars and bagging groceries.

Kohl is usually quite casually attired, wearing a boring suit and a baseball cap, which he exchanges for a cowboy hat while at his Red Hills Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he sells horses from $500 up to $2500.  It is hard to imagine that Kohls’ name adorns a department store chain. To look at him, you’d think his name was Herbert St. Vincent de Paul. Kohl’s modesty extends to his everyday activities. He is fond of eating at lunch counters, like Ma Fishers on N. Farwell Ave., and has been known to drop in at Classy Girl Cupcakes, located in the first floor of his Jefferson St. building. He had lunch with his buddy Bud at Jake’s Deli as recently as May 16th, according to a tweet from a fellow diner who noted him pulling up in his early 2000’s Buick.

After 18 years in the senate, where he remained largely invisible but beloved by his colleagues and staff, Herb Kohl is back to his passion of running the Milwaukee Bucks professional basketball team. The team announced a number of personnel shifts this week, and sources close to Kohl says he has been very active in the negotiations.

He has also held press conferences relating to the team, something unheard of during his senate years, and told the media in June, when introducing new Bucks coach Larry Drew, that he plans to make an unspecified contribution to building a new basketball arena downtown sometime before the Bucks lease at the BMO Harris Center expires in 2017.

What The “H”?

Kohl styles himself as “Herbert H. Kohl.” It took me weeks of digging to find out his middle name, which happens to be “Herschel.”

The Rundown

  • Style: High Rise
  • Neighborhood: Juneau Town; the “Original” City of Milwaukee
  • Walk Score: 91 out of 100  “Walker’s Paradise” Daily errands do not require a car. The Cafe at the Plaza, a Herb-type place, is just two blocks away. If Herb wants to go clubbing, Aura is just across the street.
  • Street Smart Walk Score: A killer 97 out of 100, “Walker’s Paradise.”
  • Transit Score: 69 out of 100 “Good Transit,” but begging for a streetcar. The Milwaukee Yacht Club is less than a mile away, but that seems a bit fancy for the former senator. But there are paddleboat rentals in the lagoon just down the bluff.
  • Size: 2046 s.f.
  • Year Built: 1968
  • Assessed Value: $393,200
  • Property Taxes: $11,697.61, paid in full

How Milwaukee is It? The Kohl residence is .69 miles from City Hall. It is just about a mile to the Bradley Center.

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Categories: House Confidential

2 thoughts on “House Confidential: Herb Kohl’s Regency Condo”

  1. Casey says:

    too bad his name is tied to a prototypical suburban department store that couldn’t be less urban.

  2. James says:

    I worked at the Regency House for 7 years. Herb is a very private man and rarely chatted with us. Very generous at Christmas, usually giving us cards with hundred dollar bills. I went up there for a plumbing issue and he sat in his chair reading a book while I addressed the issue. Nice pad with a great view. People would often say that he was into something shady but I worked there for many years and saw what people were into (lots of stories about that place) but never saw Kohl doing anything seedy or shady. Most days he came home and went to bed and that was it. I always got a kick out of the fact he had so much money and he drove a 10 year old buick. 🙂

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