Prospect Avenue Apartments Win Board OK
One-way traffic on N. Prospect Ave. slammed by developer
An 80-unit, 6-story apartment building with over 9,000 square feet of retail space planned for a surface parking lot at 2214 N. Prospect Ave. sailed to unanimous approval by members of the East Side Architectural Review Board Friday, September 18th at a public meeting held at the East Branch of the Milwaukee Public Library, 2320 N. Cramer St.
The building, designed by Rinka Chung Architecture for Robert Joseph and his firm Joseph Property Development, is to be located directly across the street from the 52-unit Overlook on Prospect apartments which Joseph redeveloped from the old Prospect Mall. The site to be developed retains the parking sign for the “Marcus Theaters” once located in the former mall. Parking spots are advertised at $50 per month; the remainder of the site consists of a Qdoba Restaurant built in 2003. The overall effect is bleak and not contributory to the neighborhood. The property is currently owned by Prospect II LLC, which purchased it in 2004 for $400,000. The site is currently assessed at $925,300. The 2,520 square foot Qdoba, which accounts for $258,600 of the assessment, is rented for about $20 per square foot a year, according to Assessor records. The property currently is taxed at $32,506. When developed it would most likely generate nearly ten times that sum.
Board member Lincoln Fowler said “something should be there. [The site is] one of the missing teeth, if you will, on Prospect.”
Ald. Nik Kovac, the ARB chairman said the city tweaked its zoning code specifically to attract such development as this when it lowered the maximum height and raised the minimum height of buildings.
During the meeting, Joseph suggested that the one-way northerly traffic on N. Prospect Ave. serves to depress retail rental prices on that street. “It will be a mark against this building [within commercial real estate circles] that it is on a one-way street. Make it two ways,” he said of traffic on the street. [East Side BID Executive Director Jim Plaisted has long championed turning N. Prospect and N. Farwell avenues into two-way thoroughfares. After the meeting Ald. Nik Kovac said it would be a matter of “when and not if traffic becomes two ways. It will have to be coordinated with the streetcar project.”]
Architect Matt Rinka noted “the fact that there is open parking makes people feel they can speed on Prospect. The hard edge of the building will slow people down. We discuss this in Urban Design Strategies class.” The “hard edge” is a rather blank south-facing wall that sits on the property line the parcel shares with a gas station to the south. Rinka explained that city code regulates penetrations on property lines, hence no windows here.
The south end of the parcel is some seven feet below grade, Rinka said, affording a first level of parking on N. Prospect Ave. and an upper level of parking to be accessed from E. Ivanhoe Pl. There will be 136 slots, Joseph said. “We added more parking than code,” he said, which has not been the trend lately. Why? “My father owns the building to the east [across the alley] and some of his overflow parking is on the lot.” Those tenants would be able to rent parking spots in the new apartment building, he said. There will also be internal bicycle parking, Joseph added.
Due to the site constraints and the two levels of parking, the residential portion of the building will not get down to business until about 18 feet above street grade. The building will wrap around the northwest corner of the block, with a slightly parabolic “boomerang” effect (as Rinka put it) allowing balconies to “pop out” over the sidewalk. “It will be very dynamic, almost creates a sense of movement,” Rinka said of the feature.
The southeast, or alley/gas station elevation will be devoted to a “rock garden” plaza, as Joseph put it. The lobby will enter onto a community room with a glass garage door wall that can be opened to the plaza.
Terracotta is seen as an element in numerous older residential buildings along N. Prospect Ave. and elsewhere on the East Side. Black terra cotta is seen in the Viking Apartments by Tullgren, on N. Farwell Ave. “Terra Cotta’s going to last 100 years,” Rinka said confidently.
Terracotta is not usually coupled with wood, or faux wood-grain surfaces, but this is the 21st century, and a miracle product called “Longboard” will serve as the woodlike soffit material for all of the balconies that project over the sidewalk. The Canadian product is a “metal that looks like wood,” Rinka said. It is channel-formed, lightweight, possibly impervious to minor dents and scratches (it will be up on a ceiling after all) and easy to install. It won’t warp or otherwise need maintenance, as would wood.
The heating and cooling system for the building will be of the through-wall type. Rinka passed around a sample of a white perforated panel that will shield the units from view while allowing for required air and exhaust circulation. Poorly disguised units on Joseph Development’s Edge on North building, designed by ARB member Jim Piwoni, created quite a stir in February when they were installed. [See Urban Milwaukee: Plenty-of-Horne-horrors-look-at-those-building-vents/.]
Fowler complimented the architect and developer for the completeness and detail of the rendering and the presentation before moving approval. The motion was seconded and passed unanimously by members Kovac, Fowler, Piwoni, Lynn Sbonik, and Mary Wilkinson-Church, with members Lora Keller and Matt Jarosz excused.