The Return of Condos
First condos since 2008 announced for Third Ward by developer Peter Renner.
“No condominiums have been built here since 2008,” Peter Renner told the members of the Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board at its regular meeting Wednesday when announcing his plans to construct 10 such units on a vacant site on the south end of the old warehouse district.
“All other developers disagree with me,” Renner said, expressing his contrarian plans to construct the 3-story, 1,400 square foot units at 610 E. Summerfest Pl., formerly known as E. Polk St. Renner said his leasing agent had received “dozens of phone calls” expressing interest since his plans were announced earlier this week.
“We can sell these things, and my girlfriend says we need money,” the architect-developer said. Renner has developed riverfront properties to the south of the 42,056 square foot lot he has bought and which was formerly owned by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. Renner affiliate 200 Broadway LLC purchased the property in 2013 for $483,700 after the City of Milwaukee passed on it, which board chairman, Ald. Bob Bauman said “was a mistake.”
The odd-shaped lot, with a lengthy legal description that includes such terms as “tangent segment,” “spur track,” “vacated alley,’ and “vacated Beach St.,” is assessed at $546,300. It adjoins properties owned by Summerfest and the Italian Community Center, including a parcel that the ICC plans to sell to be used by the Milwaukee Ballet.
Renner said he “tried to swap the land with the Italian Community Center and was turned down.” He “tried to sell it to Summerfest — turned down.”
After these rejections, he went ahead with plans for the proposed townhouse-style development. Although new units have not been built recently, existing condos in such buildings as Hansen’s Landing, where Renner himself lives just across the street from the subject property, are selling for about $389 per square foot — with riverfront units commanding prices over $400 per square foot.
Renner’s own 2,432 square foot unit is assessed at $925,000, or about $380 per square foot.
“The taxpayers of Milwaukee thank you,” Bauman said of the hefty valuations.
Renner is familiar with the lingo of the Architecture Review Board and with the design guidelines for the historic district. “The mass, rhythm, scale and height,” are all in conformity with the intent of the board, he said. However, members found issues with the placement of windows on the third floor, the details of how the buildings would meet the sidewalk and other considerations. Since the structures will be developed on vacant land with no adjoining structures, the board prefers contemporary design and materials, and eschews “faux historical” structures that attempt to mimic the originals of the area.
Renner, who seemed taken aback by the criticisms of his plans, said somewhat gratuitously, that “I don’t want it to look like one of Barry Mandel‘s buildings with all that color.” This was presumably a reference to that developer’s work on the North End.
Bauman said he likes the townhouse/row house concept, citing Milwaukee’s Abbot Row as his favorite. That building, on E. Ogden Ave., is about the same size as Renner’s planned structure, but has a more rhythmic, coherent design than that presented to the members.
Bauman suggested that Renner might take a cue from similar recent developments in Chicago, where structures often feature rooftop decks.
Renner said his buildings will employ his trademark use of precast concrete vertical panels to divide the units. Most similar structures in Milwaukee are stud-and-drywall variety, which would not meet code in Chicago, Washington D.C. or New York City.
Apartments, but not Condos Lately
Although Renner is correct that developers have shunned the condo market for years, the statement should perhaps come with an asterisk since it’s possible some buildings recently constructed here as apartments could have condominium conversions in the future as the market improves. However, there have been no announcements of such conversions being planned.
O’Keefe to Stay on ARB Board
The Wednesday meeting of the ARB followed on the heels of the retirement party held Monday at the Milwaukee Public Market for the Historic Third Ward Business Improvement District #2 Executive Director Nancy O’Keefe, who is wrapping up over two decades’ work with the group. O’Keefe also serves as a member of the ARB, and she says she will continue in that role after her retirement.