Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Posner Building To Become Apartments

Highly visible, mostly vacant building in Westown being restored.

By - May 29th, 2014 05:47 pm

The Posner Building, an almost entirely vacant building today, will become a mixed-use apartment building under an agreement approved by the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee today. The building has been vacant for a long-time, with the exception of Mo’s Irish Pub on the first and part of the second floor.

HKS Holdings (Dwell, Junior House Lofts, Kimpton Hotel) will purchase the building from long-time owner Johnny Vassallo. Vassallo, who no longer runs his Mo’s empire from Milwaukee, had announced plans prior to the economic collapse of 2008 to convert the building into a hotel.

Posner Building

Posner Building

Previous tenants include McDonalds, Pure nightclub and St. Francis Bank, as well as Mo’s Cucina (the Italian outlet of the Mo’s empire). Prior to the construction of City Hall, the city’s municipal headquarters were located in a two-story building on the site (then Grand Ave and W. Water St) of where the Posner Building was constructed.

Once renovated, the building will include 105 units, 20,000 new square-feet of retail space, the existing Mo’s Irish Pub, and 40 parking spaces.

The project is expected to cost just under $23.5 million, which the developers have found a number of financing sources for. WHEDA will provide $13.75 million in the form of a loan (while ensuring that 20 percent of the units are set aside for those that make under 80 percent of the county median income), historic tax credits will be used for $5.33 million of the financing, WEDC will provide a grant of $500,000, the owners will provide $1.4 million in equity and a developer-financed tax-incremental financing (TIF) district will provide an additional $2.5 million.

The developer-financed TIF district places almost all of the risk on the developer themselves. The developer (HKS) fronts the money, and is paid back in a set time period by incremental taxes on the property (assessed today at $3,111,000). If the property fails to generate enough income and doesn’t end up with a higher assessment, the developer doesn’t get all of their money back.

The Department of City Development expects this development to pay off in 17 years. Speaking on behalf of DCD, Dan Casanova stated that the TIF was being used not for the apartments, but to help finance the commercial space and facade repairs. Casanova also noted that a lease agreement is likely forthcoming to lease additional parking spaces in the city-owned parking garage immediately north of the property.

Formerly known as the Caswell Building, the building occupies the northwest corner of the intersection of W. Wisconsin Ave. and N. Plankinton Ave. It’s a highly visible, marquee location downtown. And as Alderman Willie Wade remarked, one of his favorite intersections in the whole city.

The bulk of the 1908 building is seven stories, with a nine-story addition built in 1913. It was originally designed by architects Van Ryn and De Gelleke. The name was changed in 1982 when the father and son team of Gene and Jeffrey Posner changed the name (they had bought the building in 1966). The original name comes from the man who built it, Napolean Bonaparte Caswell.

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5 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Posner Building To Become Apartments”

  1. John G. says:

    I would have to agree with Alderman Wade. The intersection is beautiful and has so much potential. Location will be a tough one for apartments though.

  2. John Cooper says:

    That’s a great intersection, and the state of the building has distressed me for a long time. I think this is the best downtown news I’ve read in the past year. As for living there…I’d do it if the price and amenities were right—say $1,400 for a large one-bedroom with decent appliances and insulation against weather and neighbor noise. A full Posner building will make a real difference to the feel of downtown.

  3. Andy Kaiser says:

    I agree with John Cooper- while I sometimes do wonder if Milwaukee is becoming over-saturated with new apartments, finding a positive re-use for this historic building, as well as putting any sort of positive momentum into the central downtown area would be a good move.

  4. Rob Johnston says:

    Exciting to hear about people who have faith in the downtown.

  5. John O'Neill Sr. says:

    Having a “trolley” running through the downtown should make the location even more desirable; right WI. Conservative Digest?

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