Is the Downtown Apartment Boom Over?
Wangard hesitates over river-side apartment complex, while other projects push ahead.
The property Wangard plans to develop is a piece of land near the Brady and Water Street intersection (1693, 1701-1729 N. Water St.), with access to the Milwaukee River, just outside the boundaries of Downtown, that’s been vacant for years. Ryan reported that Wangard initially planned apartments there, but now has plans for condominiums.
Ryan reported that Michael Cockroft, a project manager for Wangard, said the firm re-evaluated their plans in light of changing markets for housing downtown. Apparently the market for high-end apartments downtown is starting to look saturated as vacancy rates rise. And Cockroft said those looking downtown are increasingly interested in owning a home downtown, thus, the condos.
Is this the end of the apartment boom downtown? Wangard appears to be signaling that. Apartment developments are still occurring Downtown, and in big ways. Look at Northwestern Mutual’s 7Seventy7 tower rising out of the ground. And the boom has certainly metastasized in other parts of the city like Walker’s Point and Bay View.
But if a major developer like Wangard is already hesitant about the apartment market, what does that mean for those projects that have yet to cut a ribbon? That could be worrisome… except that other apartment projects are still going strong.
Four Apartment Projects Make the News
In Westown, a project that would see 35 apartments made it through the Historic Preservation Commission, Jeramey Jannene reported. The development at St. James Episcopal Church at 833 W. Wisconsin Ave. stalled in the committee in February because the project calls for demolishing a parish house built in 1899 to make way for the development of an event center and apartments. The project passed this week, with the developer Josh Jeffers agreeing to preserve some of the elements of the historic building.
In the Third Ward, an early 20th century building at 203 N. Broadway is being redeveloped into seven apartments with commercial space on the first floor, Michael Horne reported. The four-story building is the former home of Paintball Dave’s.
In East Town, the Park East Hotel is being redeveloped into a 96-unit apartment building. The building at 916 E. State St. was purchased for $9 million and is being redeveloped by a team of developers including Michael Klein, Jeno Cataldo and Derek Schneider.
Downer Avenue Switcheroo
Einstein Bros bagels formerly occupied the spot Optix will now occupy. It’s been vacant for years. Optix will leave behind a smaller space next to Downer Wine & Spirits. Which in turn is next to the future home of a Stone Creek Coffee; that firm is also moving into a formerly long vacant building.
So Downer is filling up, or so it seems. Optix is moving into a bigger space, and hopefully something new will take its place at the north end of the commercial strip there.
Still, despite being located in the wealthiest area of the city, the little commercial strip has struggled for years with vacant storefronts. In 2014, Bruce Murphy wrote about a prominent property owner in the area calling for public financing in the form of a Tax Incremental District to spur growth.
But as Murphy and Michael Horne have written, the issues Downer has faced over the years are the consequence of intractable property owners, not a weak local market, nor a need for subsidies.
In Other News:
- Developers of the Sherman Phoenix, a business incubator for local entrepreneurs in Sherman Park, have reached about 70 percent of their fundraising goal for the project.
- Walnut Way Conservation Corp. was awarded grants for solar energy projects in Lindsay Heights.
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