Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Broadway Connection Gets Thumbs Up

Historic Preservation Commission approves Joshua Jeffers' 11-story office building.

By - Jan 15th, 2019 12:43 pm
Broadway Connection updated rendering. Rendering from Engberg Anderson Architects.

Broadway Connection updated rendering. Rendering from Engberg Anderson Architects.

Developer Joshua Jeffers will break ground by April on the Broadway Connection office building.

The project, anchored by law firm Husch Blackwell, was approved Monday afternoon by the Historic Preservation Commission. It’s the end of a long process that saw J. Jeffers & Co. go from a conceptual plan to a seven-story apartment building then a nine-story office building, and finally an 11-story office building. The building will be built on a parking lot at the northwest corner of the intersection of N. Broadway and E. Clybourn St.

Why did Jeffers switch from apartments to offices? “There are some features on this site that are a detractor to get the top-of-the-market rents, most notably the highway. You end up with a lot of units looking at Interstate 794, which is not a great amenity,” Jeffers told the commission. The highway access is an asset for an office tenant. Husch Blackwell apparently agrees, the firm announced it had leased half of the building in December. The firm will move in when the building opens in late 2020.

The project also benefits from its proximity to the Historic Third Ward neighborhood. “There’s really not a lot of urban infill opportunity left in the Third Ward,” said Jeffers. “One of the things we noticed is we’re getting a lot of interest from tenants who, if they couldn’t be in the Third Ward, wanted to be as close as possible.” That interest is a big reason why Jeffers chose to add an additional floor of office space to the building.

The commission, which has spent many meetings offering feedback on the various iterations of the project, unanimously approved the design with a handful of minor conditions. Jeffers and Engberg Anderson Architects will have to meet with the commission’s staff to select a granite material for the building’s lower levels and a small number of other design tweaks. The three proposed balconies were reduced to one on the eighth floor. The project falls under the purview of the historic commission because it is being built within the city-designated East Side Commercial Historic District.

Commission staffer Tim Askin had recommended earlier in the meeting that Jeffers remove the top story from the proposed building because it throws off “the massing and scale.” Architecture professor and commission member Matt Jarosz responded: “My feeling is that the massing is appropriate for the corner, but I don’t want to make a kind of gratuitous decision that it feels right.” Jarosz, who leads the Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board, said that by the Third Ward design standard of matching the height, within 30 percent, of nearby buildings, Jeffers project is an appropriate height. It would be slightly taller than the adjacent Button Block building.

Erecting the new building isn’t the only thing Jeffers is planning to do in the area. “The other phase of this is we do want to do a fair amount of streetscaping in this whole district,” Jeffers told the commission. He envisions streetscaping on Broadway, E. Michigan St. and E. Clybourn St. and has reached out to the Department of Public Works on the issue.

Jeffers, who owns the nearby Mitchell and Mackie buildings as well the office building at 602 N. Broadway, said large streetscaping efforts have historically been hampered by the sidewalk vaults extending out from each of the building’s foundations. Street trees and other large items cannot be placed atop hollow sidewalks. The vaults, historically used to create extra storage space and allow for easy deliveries to basements, have less of a practical purpose today and Jeffers has been filling them in on his properties.

January 2019 Renderings

October 2018 Renderings

2017 Renderings

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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Broadway Connection Gets Thumbs Up”

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