New Apartment Building Approved at Pabst
Florida developer willing to undertake a project that no local developers will. The result will be 118 market-rate apartments, with no city financing.
Two historic buildings at the former Pabst Brewing Company Complex will see new life as apartments under a proposal from a Florida developer. The attached buildings 24 and 25 at The Brewery would become 118 market-rate apartments under the proposal by Whitestone Realty Capital. Whitestone will purchase the buildings from the Zilber Property Group, which has led the catalytic redevelopment of the long-abandoned brewery.
Building 24 is a large building that occupies the southwest corner of the intersection of N. 9th St. and W. Juneau Ave. The intersection is the de facto center of The Brewery neighborhood and is widely recognizable because of the large Pabst sign that bridges W. Juneau Ave. That sign is anchored to the north side of Building 24 and the south side of the Brew House Inn and Suites.
Documents provided to the City Plan Commission indicate that the joint buildings were built in “circa 1882, 1891, and 1901” with alterations made through the 1990’s. Given the age of the buildings, Whitestone will apply for federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits, which can be valued at up to 40 percent of the cost of the project due to a recent change in state law.
As part of the renovation, windows will be installed where they are currently bricked over. Most significantly, a number of interior floors will be removed, with new floors inserted that match the alignment of the windows. The floors are not a significant part of the historic structure because of how much they have been modified over time, according to testimony from the developer. Documents submitted to the city by Whitestone state “the intent of the project is to maintain and celebrate the building’s industrial and brewing past on the interior by exposing existing structure and existing brick walls where possible, salvaging and reusing machinery and industrial materials in public spaces, and maintaining the industrial aesthetic when new materials are introduced.” The document also states that a new roof will be installed on the entire complex; this presumably will include the removal of the rooftop tree visible from the street (that has likely been growing since Pabst abandoned the complex). The silos at the north end of the complex will have a vehicular entryway installed in them as part of the plan, but will otherwise remain intact.
The project was granted conditional approval on September 29th by the City Plan Commission, pending approval by the Historic Preservation Commission. It does not require a zoning change because the entire brewery is designated a Development Incentive Zone. Approval by the Historic Preservation Commission seems likely given that the developer spoke at length during the project’s public hearing about their negotiations with the Wisconsin Historical Society, which manages the historic preservation tax credits for the state.
The project is expected to cost $29 million. Whitestone had previously proposed 127 assisted and independent living apartments at the site, but switched the proposal based on market demands. Whitestone hopes to start work on the project in 2014.
As late as 2006 when I wandered the grounds of what is now The Brewery, I was often the only person around. Broken glass and chain link fences were the norm. Less than ten years later new construction and historic preservation rule the day at the new mixed-use neighborhood. Projects and activities include:
- Construction of the Pabst Professional Center office building is nearly complete.
- The bottling building (Building 29) is undergoing construction work to be converted to international student apartments.
- Streetscaping work is underway, centered on W. Juneau Ave., which will yield center-median parking that will make the overly wide streets feel much more friendly.
- The Fredrick Lofts apartment building is under construction.
- Brewery Point Apartments (new construction) and Blue Ribbon Lofts (adaptive reuse) both have been open for over a year.
- Cardinal Stritch (adaptive reuse) and the UW-Milwaukee School of Public Health (adaptive reuse and new construction) both have a significant presence in the neighborhood.
- Best Place, a bar and hall, just opened a second hall.
- The Brewhouse Inn and Suites hotel and attached Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub seem to do a brisk business.
- The LEED Gold certified parking garage opened in 2009.
- The former boiler house (Building 10) is now the Boiler House Office Building and has been open since 2008.
- Zilber Park is open, honoring the legacy of Joseph and Vera Zilber.
Out of Town Developers
The proposed apartment complex is another example of an out-of-town developer entering the Milwaukee market. Whether the developers are attempting to curry favor or genuinely mean it, both Whitestone and Chicago-based Carroll Properties (700 E. Kilbourn Ave.) have praised working with the Department of City Development and downtown alderman Robert Bauman. Bauman has returned the favor by praising the efforts of both Whitestone and Carroll. Bauman heaped praise on Whitestone for their desire to work on this project that he claimed other developers in town said was unfeasible. As long as the out-of-town developers aren’t asking for public financing, expect the embrace of them to continue.