Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Proposed Downtown Hotel Loses Two Floors

Change made to please historic commission, which still holds the project until next month.

By - Apr 3rd, 2019 06:22 pm
Revised Kinn Hotel Plan. Rendering by Vetter Architecture.

Revised Kinn Hotel Plan. Rendering by Vetter Architecture.

Developer Charles Bailey‘s proposed Kinn Hotel for downtown Milwaukee is caught in limbo.

Bailey intends to add floors to the top of a four-story building at 602 N. Broadway, but the proposal is currently being held by the Historic Preservation Commission for further review. Bailey, after meeting with the city’s historic preservation staff last month, has already had architect John Vetter remove two floors from the top of the building. The change would reduce the room count from 62 to 45.

But city historic preservation staff would like to see the addition reduced to one floor, a change that Bailey said would effectively kill the project. He told the commission that the project, in its current configuration, will rely on historic preservation tax credits to make it economically feasible. The developer, through his firm Joca Properties, currently operates the Kinn Guesthouse in Bay View.

The downtown building, located between E. Wisconsin Ave. and the Historic Third Ward, is part of the city’s East Side Commercial Historic District. Bailey and Vetter view the proposal as a connector between Downtown and the Historic Third Ward, and wish it to be judged by the Historic Third Ward’s design standards.

Design in the Third Ward is governed by an architectural review board (ARB) which has allowed a number of vertical additions to buildings. “We really feel that it’s important. You have to look at it through the Third Ward,” said Vetter at a historic commission meeting held earlier this week.

Commissioner Matt Jarosz, who serves as coordinator for the Third Ward ARB, spoke in favor of the project, but still moved to hold the project in order to hear from adjoining property owner David Uihlein and further review the plan. “Before we turn investment parties away because of rules, we should be very careful about these things,” said the UW-Milwaukee architecture professor. “I’m looking at a block that is so in need of investment.”

Don Arenson, who owns the two buildings to the north and has lived on the block for decades, objects to the addition, even with the reduction. “It’s still a 30-foot wall next to my building,” said Arenson. Vetter said windows were excluded from the north facade at Arenson’s request to maintain privacy on his rooftop deck.

Arenson believes the hotel would negatively impact his property value. “It seems like the value of your property would go up,” said Jarosz, a position echoed by Vetter and Bailey. But Arenson said he would lose the view from his properties. The adjoining buildings were originally built as one structure, the Lawrence Block, in 1868.

Another nearby property owner is in favor of the proposal. “I like it. It’s a nice addition to the neighborhood,” said Commissioner Patti Keating Kahn. She owns the nearby Railway Exchange Building, and said the commission would have a tough time rejecting the proposal given that it accepted the hotel tower addition to the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center.

“I do think this is probably the finest designed addition that I have seen come before the commission,” said city historic preservation staffer Tim Askin. “No one has listened to my vague design suggestions as much as Mr. Vetter. But I am deeply, deeply uncomfortable with a three-story addition atop a four-story building.”

One thing no one has a problem with? The changes to the existing historic building. “The changes proposed for the core of the building are sensitive and appropriate,” said Askin.

The next Historic Preservation Commission meeting is scheduled for May 6th.

For more on the proposal, see our coverage from March.

Revised Renderings

Original Renderings and Building Photo

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Related Legislation: File 181800

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