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
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.


Viets Tower Renderings

STEM Center Renderings

2019 Photos

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