Jeramey Jannene
Friday Photos

New Grand Avenue Apartments

Plankinton Arcade becoming apartments is significant step in mall's transformation.

By - Sep 2nd, 2017 04:14 pm
Plankinton Arcade commercial stalls becoming apartments. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Plankinton Arcade commercial stalls becoming apartments. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Very quietly the owners of the Shops of Grand Avenue are setting about transforming the downtown mall. Perhaps the most visible sign of those changes currently is the redevelopment of a portion of the Plankinton Arcade building into high-end apartments.

Big plans for the mall, owned by a partnership of The Aggero Group and Hempel Companies, were first unveiled in April 2016. The plans, drawn up by architecture firm TKWA UrbanLab, envision the mall becoming a true community hub with a mix of uses beyond retail, including a first-floor food hall, open-concept office space and a grocery store.

The apartments, which will occupy the second floor of the Plankinton building, are being developed in space most recently used for offices by groups like NEWaukee and Bucketworks. Today the floor-to-ceiling windows lining the skywalk are covered in brown paper as crews work to prep the space. The units will have direct skywalk access.

The Kubala Washatko Architects UrbanLab arm, which is leading the redesign of the mall complex, is also designing the apartments. The apartments, estimated to cost $10 million to develop, will be located along W. Wisconsin Ave. between N. 2nd St. and N. Plankinton Ave. For mall regulars, that places them above the TJ Maxx and former Linens ‘N Things space.

The apartments won’t be the first in the complex, or even the building. Developer Kendall Breunig owns the third floor and a portion of fifth floor in the Plankinton Arcade building and has developed apartments in former office space. UW-Milwaukee and the YMCA also occupy space on upper floors in the building. The Plankinton building is owned by a number of different parties, with the mall occoupying of the lower two floors in the seven-story building.

Developer Gorman & Co. owns the 135-unit Majestic Lofts, which is in a separate building that connects to the mall. The Mandel Group also owns the Boston Lofts in the complex, with 74 units on the upper four floors of the Boston Store building on the mall’s west end.

The development conforms with existing zoning for the city and did not require any public hearings.

Aggero and Hempel acquired the complex, including the attached parking structure, in December 2015 for $24.5 million.

City records indicate the Plankinton Arcade building was originally constructed in 1916. A five-story addition to the two-story arcade building was added in 1924.


Plankinton Arcade Prior to Construction

6 thoughts on “Friday Photos: New Grand Avenue Apartments”

  1. mbradleyc says:

    I’m sad about his. It’s great for the people who can afford to live there. But this is a public space that will no longer be accessible to the rest of us.

  2. @mbradleyc – It is my understanding that you will still be able to walk through the skywalk/arcade.

  3. Steve says:

    I remember when The Grand Avenue first opened back in 1982 and the people flocked Down there like crazy to shop.Grand Avenue went downhill in the 1990s when the parking structure started raising its parking rates.Why would anyone want to pay to park when the other surrounding malls let you park for free?Meanwhile Southridge is facing competition from that new retail development known as 84 South between 84th and 92nd and Layton Avenues.Kohl’s is moving out of Southridge to this new development and Sears is closing up.That means Southridge will be down to three Anchor Stores from Five.And there is also Amazon which has impacted the brick and mortar stores.The Shops of Grand Avenue still had a very viable Food Court and couple of good Coffee Shops and Kiosks.I have not been in there in the last four years but I would like to see the transformation.Is the Food Court being moved to the ground level?

  4. Jack says:

    mbradleyc, maybe the reason it’s no longer accessible to the public is that the public was no longer interested in going to those spaces. Also, with empty stores, that’s not a formula for economic viability. People living there produces income.

  5. Jack says:

    We didn’t have the Internet in 1982 when the mall reopened. Any shops there will have to be unique enough and interesting enough to draw real live people to them.

  6. Scott R. says:

    They took a vibrant public space and neglected it, refusing to invest in anything that would add value. It all had to be on someone else’s dime.

    Now they’ve destroyed it completely, making that beautiful historic building something few will feel welcome in. Their plans are lame and uninspiring. TKWA UrbanLab, in particular, has defrauded the investors — promising them that their half-baked, soulless project will “transform the space. No. It will fail. It has already failed.

    It’s what happens when a group of low-energy investors and an unimpressive development team acquire a project just to reap a ROI as quickly as possible with no real investment into it to build something worthwhile. They’ve ignored the neighborhood completely. They’ve never asked resident stakeholders what they’d like to see. They just came up with the latest mediocrity and are PR-ing it as though it’s so “now” and so cool. But it’s really just a lame, visionless piece of dreck that no one in the neighborhood or city will love.

    It’s a shame it’s such a prominent location — and such a prominent part of Milwaukee history. Ruined and wasted. RIP.

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