Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

New Penthouse for Old Third Ward Building

Eppstein Uhen short of space in Headquarters; Bauman rips Summerfest traffic woes; and his challenger kicks off campaign

By - Aug 12th, 2015 04:50 pm
Rendering of 333 E. Chicago St. addition. Photo by Michael Horne.

Rendering of 333 E. Chicago St. addition. Photo by Michael Horne.

When the architectural firm of Eppstein Uhen bought and renovated an old warehouse at 333 E. Chicago St. as its headquarters in 1999, the firm employed 85 people. Today, the five story timber frame structure in the Historic Third Ward is home to 125 of the firm’s 150 employees and “we are literally out of desks,” says partner Greg Uhen.

Uhen told the Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board meeting Wednesday that he expects to add about 30 more people to the firm within the next few years, and a sixth floor to the building immediately.

He cited a need for:

  • meeting space
  • a gathering place
  • conference space
  • a “work cafe” and
  • a kitchenette

Uhen said the only place to go for these amenities would be up, so he proposes yet another rooftop expansion in an area that has seen a number of them recently. The firm is already installing smaller workstations to increase available workspace, he said.

333 E. Chicago St. Photo by Michael Horne.

333 E. Chicago St. Photo by Michael Horne.

Uhen told the board that he proposes a “simple, elegant structure atop a lovely old historical building.” The new facility would be made of a galvanized steel frame set above the timbers of the original building. Right now the roof is about three-quarters clear, save for a mechanical area that Uhen placed off to a side during the 1999 remodeling, envisioning that some day the roof might be called into service. Architects like to think ahead.

The new improvements would encompass about 2,500 square feet of space, and include some raised planters, a sunshade structure, that needed kitchenette and a small rest room. The floor would be stained concrete, and Ipe wood would be used for the decking and for a wall by the sunshade. The new structure would mimic the bays and other proportions of the existing building, including floor height but would be constructed of modern materials, with a liberal use of glass.

Uhen hopes to use zinc to clad the building, provided the pricing is right. He declined to give a budget for the project, but indicated it would not be cheap. At this point, he has put the building out to bid, and says he is willing to go ahead immediately with construction by Berghammer if the project comes within budget.

An alternative would be to find rental space for the new employees, which would possibly be more expensive than the proposed build-out, and would spread out staff to remote locations, at a time when collaboration is all the rage in architectural design firms.

The members of the board, led by Ald. Bob Bauman, were generally supportive of the proposal, and gave it a preliminary approval with no dissenting votes. Member Greg Patin had some reservations about what all agreed was the single most challenging aspect of the building program, namely a stairwell that would have to be built above an existing one, and would be visible from the street. Uhen’s solution was to mimic the windows below, but Patin suggested the proportions might have to be tweaked somewhat.


Summerfest Traffic Woes Aired

After the Architectural Review Board meeting, Bauman and Historic Third Ward executive director Nancy O’Keefe met with representatives of Milwaukee World Festival and Department and Commissioner of Public Works Ghassan Korban to discuss neighborhood complaints about traffic during the 11-day run of Summerfest this year.

“The Third Ward becomes unlivable for 11 days,” he said. “We need a plan to substantially reduce auto traffic during [Summerfest],” he said. “People can’t get to their homes.”

Bauman cited the case of a medical professional who lives in a riverfront loft. She arrives home from work around 11 p.m., he said, but during Summerfest was not allowed to her residence. Police had all traffic in the area running one-way out of the ward, she said. Furthermore, the police refused to believe she even lived there, adding to the complications. Traffic at the end of the festival day can be gridlocked as far south as National Avenue, said Bill Wesley, Summerfest head of security.

Some lots are charging as much as $50 for parking, which Bauman said is a good thing. “Let the marketplace discourage driving,” he said. When O’Keefe said the Third Ward charges $15 for Summerfest parking at its lots, Bauman retorted, “that’s not enough.”

“The problem with Summerfest is not the people — it’s the cars,” he said. “Summerfest and the Third Ward can absorb another 100,000 pedestrians. The problem is the 20,000 cars. … I have expressed this frequently to [Milwaukee World Festival CEO Don] Smiley.

“Thirty years ago there was nothing in the Third Ward. Now there are residents, businesses, with big property taxes that they are paying to us,” and that is enough to get a politician’s attention.

Bauman cited a proposed 30-block no-car zone proposed for the visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia in late September, and suggested Summerfest might consider a similar option, closing traffic to all but residents and service vehicles, as well as likely limiting the ability of people to charge $50 to park cars on their surface lots.

Whatever the decision, Bauman said something must be done. “We need a “Plan B” at some point to significantly reduce the number of cars coming down” for the festival, he said.

Shaw to Challenge Bauman

A small group of about two-dozen supporters encountered a large amount of delicious food from Thai Bar-B-Que restaurant Monday as lawyer Andrew Shaw announced his plans to run for 4th District Alderman at Rusty’s Old 50, 730 N. Old World Third St.

Shaw, a Marquette-trained attorney in private practice, previously ran for mayor. Shaw, who calls himself a “zealous advocate for our community,” says “we need a new kind of leadership,” in the 4th District, which is represented by Ald. Bob Bauman, who is expected to run for re-election. Shaw says he has a strategy for reducing murder in Milwaukee, including getting illegal guns off the street through a “Gun Bounty Program,” which he says is not a “gun buyback program.” The bounty would pay “substantial rewards for information leading to the arrest and confiscation of illegal firearms.” The bounty could also include reduced sentencing in plea bargains agreements for offenders facing criminal charges, he said. His plans also include improving economic opportunity, improving the relationship between law enforcement and the community, and crime prevention.

Bauman, for his part is unfazed. He noted that Shaw has drawn limited financial support for his campaign. Outside of Shaw’s own contribution to his campaign, the remainer of his support came from entities interested in operating a strip club downtown, Bauman said. Rusty’s site for the fundraising was appropriate, since Bauman opposed the use of it as a strip club some years ago.

8 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: New Penthouse for Old Third Ward Building”

  1. TF says:

    “Gun Bounty Program”? Is Mr. Shaw aware of entities such as the Milwaukee Police Department, the DA’s Office, and the Circuit Court? Does he know what they do? Does he realize that his proposal duplicates the work these folks do every day???

  2. James says:

    Summerfest Traffic: Maybe the City should have invested in deployable rapid high-capacity buses rather than a 3-car fixed trolley line. The buses could run from Miller Park’s parking lots to Summerfest. Funny how Bauman thinks that the responsibility to solve this problem is on Summerfest, after the City approved traffic generating high density development in the Third Ward.

    333 East Chicago: The proposed rooftop gazebo is not elegant, and what happens if zinc cladding is too expensive. Hilarity ensues when inviting numerous people to a rooftop for food and drink, where there are minimal restroom facilities and the only way down is via a stairway.

  3. Eric S says:

    I’d say Bauman is right on this – it is not “traffic generating high density development in the Third Ward” that is causing problems, it is Summerfest. The other 350ish days a year, automobile traffic in the Third Ward area is not unmanageable. And although the transit strike probably didn’t help things this year, transit, including buses and streetcars and other modes, should play a greater role in handling Summerfest crowds.

  4. James says:

    A quick Google search shows that Summerfest attendance reached 830.000 in the late 1980s, hit 880,000 in 2011, dropped to 806,000 in 2012 (heat wave), climbed to 840,000 in 2013, and fell to 773,000 for 2015 (cold weather, road construction, 3-day bus strike). Traffic congestion should have been less this year that it has been in decades. The difference is high density development in the Third Ward. “Walk to Summerfest” is a selling point.

    The same traffic problem likely will occur in relation to the new arena and increased surrounding high density residential development. The City’s new 1,200 car capacity parking ramp is going to be constructed in the middle of a high density apartment block. Residential, hotel, and commercial development is occurring in nearby Schlitz Park, while a year round city-funded outdoor drinking mall is being planned adjacent to the new arena. About 60% of the people coming to Bradley Center events live outside Milwaukee. The 3-car trolley is not going to solve the arriving traffic problem.

  5. Casey says:

    During festivals put mulitple docking stations for the Bublr Bikes. People can drive to an Bublr station outside of downtown and ride right up to the gate. No dealing with over crowded buses full of drunks and quicker to get out when everyone else is stuck in their car. For us the station by Schlitz Park worked out perfectly.

  6. @James – I disagree. There was a bus strike during Summerfest this year, so undoubtedly far more people drove. The traffic problem likely was worse this year than in years past (at least for a few days).

    I don’t think the total attendance matters as much as the way people get to Summerfest. What percentage are driving today vs 20 years ago? Has the location of parking facilities changed (there are plenty of new parking garages in the area)?

    I think the problem is getting attention because there are finally people living in the Historic Third Ward to notice it. I doubt that the couple thousand people that live or work in the neighborhood are tipping the scale against the 100,000 person crowd that shows up at Summerfest on peak days.

    The county does have a high-capacity bus system to get people to Summerfest (the surrounding counties do as well). Perhaps more attention needs to be put forth to make people use it.

    I don’t think Bauman is saying it’s entirely Summerfest’s issue to fix, but that all the involved parties need to come together to create a more workable solution.

  7. Dave says:

    Maybe you could repeat “3-car trolley” a few more times, James? How’s that do over petition coming along? Not too good, I’m guessing.

    Summerfest traffic this year was particularly horrendous (at least it was entering and leaving grounds via bus on the 27th). Both the organization and direction of traffic was piss poor. Buses were intermingled with cars in the 3rd Ward (more so than in years past) and a massive traffic jam ensued caused by cars not going to right places and paying for parking while hundreds of people in buses sat there waiting to be offloaded.

    I say eliminate half the parking lots, develop the valuable land and Summerfest can operate more buses from park and rides. I have a feeling this won’t happen any time soon, though, as the suburbanites seem to have a curious aversion to buses (despite their new proclamations in a desperate attempt to kill the “3-car trolley”).

  8. Milwaukeean says:

    Toll Roads, Toll Roads, Toll Roads! Build toll roads North, South, and West coming into Milwaukee County and let the fancy suburbanites pay for the City’s transit issues.

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