Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

MSOE Reshaping Its Campus

New STEM center, redeveloped residence hall just the latest changes.

By - Jul 5th, 2020 01:51 pm
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Roy W. Johnson Hall is being redeveloped into Viets Tower. An additional tower is being added to the building's south facade. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Roy W. Johnson Hall is being redeveloped into Viets Tower. An additional tower is being added to the building’s south facade. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) continues to reshape its downtown campus in both subtle and drastic ways.

The most visible change actively underway is the large hole that has been bored into the side of the university’s 13-story Roy W. Johnson Hall at 1121 N. Milwaukee St.

The university is redeveloping the residence hall, its largest and oldest, into Viets Tower. Beyond increasing student capacity from 450 to 546, the redevelopment will add a number of collaboration spaces as part of a focus on creating a “living-learning community.” The $37 million project will see the first floor filled with spaces for residents and non-resident students and the upper floors of the 1965-built tower completely transformed.

A glassy tower is being added to the building’s southern facade that overlooks the recently completed Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall. A new plaza, built atop what is currently a surface parking lot, is planned to link the two buildings.

The revamped residence hall is scheduled to open in time for the 2021-2022 school year. The university had planned to relax its residency requirement to accommodate its temporarily decreased on-campus housing capacity.

A more subtle change is underway on the campus as well.

The never-leased commercial space in the Viets Field parking garage complex at the north end of the campus is being converted to a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) center for K-12 students. The building opened in 2013 at 1305 N. Broadway, with the commercial space overlooking a plaza and pedestrian extension of E. Ogden Ave.

Known as the WE Energies Stem Center at MSOE, the 10,000-square-foot space is intended to help broaden the university’s educational outreach programs with a focus on serving underserved students. MSOE reports more than 10,000 students from 150 schools have gone through its programs since 2017.

The university has partnered with We Energies, Rockwell Automation and American Family Insurance, the latter of which is opening a new Milwaukee office a few blocks northwest, on the project. Uihlein/Wilson Ramlow/Stein Architects is leading the design of both the residence hall and STEM center projects.

A handful of other projects are underway or have been recently completed.

The third floor of the university’s campus center at 1025 N. Broadway is being reconfigured into a student dining and study commons. The space has long held a variety of uses, with most student dining occurring across the street in Johnson Hall. The dining and commons project is one of many changes, including building out a new nursing center, that have been made to the former Blatz Brewing building in recent years.

Across the street, the former German-English Academy, used off and on by the university over many decades, has now been redeveloped as the Direct Supply Technology Center at MSOE.

The university also purchased a failed condominium project for use as a residence hall (Grohmann Tower) in 2013 and a nearby parking lot in 2015. If you go back a little further, the university also added the Grohmann Museum (2007), which includes classrooms as well as art, and the Kern Center athletics and wellness complex (2004).

“When I think of the changes that have happened to MSOE in the last decade and a half, I’m having trouble remembering them all,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in April 2019 when the residence hall project was announced.

The university has approximately 2,800 students, 2,500 of which are full-time undergraduates. John Y. Walz, just the fifth president in the university’s 117-year-history, has led the school since 2016. Walz followed Hermann Viets, who led the university from 1990 to 2015.

Photos

Viets Tower Renderings

STEM Center Renderings

2019 Photos

The Electric Apartments Rise

A new apartment building has begun to rise in the Historic Third Ward following the completion of an unusual structure in the building’s base.

Joseph Property Development is developing a 60-unit building at the southwest corner of N. Jefferson St. and E. St. Paul Ave. The site was most recently a surface parking lot.

The Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board first approved the project in 2018, but Joseph had to wait for over a year as a unique feature was built in the center of the site – an electrical substation for We Energies.

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Crump Wins Committee Support to Head DCD

Members of the Common Council gave their first endorsement for Lafayette Crump to serve as the new commissioner of the Department of City Development.

The Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of Crump’s appointment on Tuesday morning after nearly two hours asking Crump a wide range of questions on economic development, transportation, racial equity and tax incentives. The virtual meeting was important enough that several council members who don’t sit on the committee participated.

Crump was appointed in late May by Mayor Tom Barrett to replace long-time commissioner Rocky Marcoux, who is retiring after 16 years in the role. The commissioner manages the Department of City Development, serves as de-facto city planner and leads the implementation of most city economic development policies.

In answers to questions and his opening remarks, Crump repeatedly touched on two areas he is focused on: racial equity and economic development beyond Downtown.

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Biggest Ever Affordable Housing Project Advances

The biggest proposed affordable housing development in the city took a major step forward Tuesday morning.

The Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee unanimously endorsed a $3.15 million financing package for the $59 million, 197-unit The Community Within the Corridor development.

Developer Que El-Amin, through his firm Scott Crawford Inc., will redevelop a vacant two-block, 6.99-acre manufacturing campus at N. 32nd St. and W. Center St. into one of the most substantial affordable housing developments in city and state history. The complex of buildings, the oldest of which dates back to 1906, was originally built for Briggs & Stratton. Much of it has been vacant since the 1980s according to a city report.

“We’re all cheering for you on this one,” said Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, one of many council members to speak in favor of the project and the development team’s persistence.

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Demand Up But Home Sales Down

Jamie Desjardin-Rummel entered the COVID-19 season expecting the housing market to crash. A broker associate at Benefit Realty in Franklin in Milwaukee County, Desjardin-Rummel found quite the opposite to be true.

“It got pretty crazy,” she said.

In her experience, a lot of sellers are apprehensive to list their homes. And because the housing market was already seeing high demand before COVID-19 struck, buyers are facing competition from multiple other prospective homebuyers.

“Things are going a lot higher, they’re getting a lot crazier, and we have to be a lot quicker to get our people in the houses,” she said.

Sales in Milwaukee County in May decreased more than 33 percent compared to the May prior. For those who are buying, the competition is fierce. Homes are moving off the market quicker. Months of available supply dropped sharply, by about 20 percent compared to 2019, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association (WRA).

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