Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Royal Capital Purchases Former Gimbels Complex

ThriveOn Collaboration construction will begin in February.

By - Dec 15th, 2020 06:10 pm
Schuster's redevelopment. Conceptual rendering by Engberg Anderson Architects.

Schuster’s redevelopment. Conceptual rendering by Engberg Anderson Architects.

Royal Capital Group announced Tuesday it purchased the former Gimbels department store at 2153 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. The acquisition, from an affiliate of CH Coakley & Co., represents a key milestone in the redevelopment of the 455,000-square-foot complex.

The completed $84.5 million project will be known as the ThriveOn Collaboration and will have apartments, office space and community space under one roof. The project is a partnership between Royal Capital, the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and Greater Milwaukee Foundation (GMF).

In a press release, the partners announced that they would start construction in February.

Royal Capital president Kevin Newell, in September, said he had hoped to begin construction in the fall of 2020. Work is still scheduled to be completed in early 2022.

The complicated project includes a building that was added onto multiple times over the course of its 113-year history.

The eastern half of the complex, facing the King Drive commercial corridor, will be used as 131,000 square feet of Class A office space for MCW’s community-facing programs and GMF’s headquarters. A community space is planned for the first floor of the entire complex.

In addition to the new office space, a total of 77 apartments — a mix of affordable and market-rate apartments — would be developed on the western portion of the complex along N. Vel R. Phillips Avenue. The housing project relies on low-income housing tax credits which have not been formally awarded at this point.

A 315-stall parking structure will be constructed on the southwest corner of the nearly full-block property.

“Already on board as an anchor tenant of this project, [GMF] is extending its commitment to the collaboration through a $10 million impact investment to ensure this world-class redevelopment proceeds as planned,” said GMF COO and CFO Kenneth Robertson in a statement. “This significant brick-and-mortar investment speaks to the depth of the foundation’s commitment to the people of Halyard Park, Harambee, and Brewers Hill, as we support access to opportunity and racial equity throughout Milwaukee.”

Being a partner in the ThriveOn Collaboration helps us achieve this vital mission, as we intend to invest in access to health and wellness facilities, healthy food options, and preventative health services in the area,” said MCW senior vice president Greg Wesley.

The collaboration has five target areas for which the partners will work to uplift the surrounding area: housing, early childhood education, health & wellness, social cohesion and economic opportunity.

According to state records, the property was acquired for $9,239,250 on Monday.

The oldest building in the complex was built in 1907 as a home for Schuster’s department store and expanded many times. The Gimbels chain acquired Schuster’s in 1961 and operated the store until 1969. It was used as a warehouse by Gimbels (which eventually went out of business) until 1992 according to city records. It was then acquired by CH Coakley & Co. which has used the building for storage and office space. Many of the former department store fixtures, including escalators, can still be found in the building.

“It’s probably one of the biggest transformations of a building that you’ll see in the city from start to finish,” said Department of City Development economic development specialist Dan Casanova when the city was considering a $12.6 million financing commitment in late 2019. “If you’ve lived in Milwaukee for a number of years, you probably go by and forget that it’s there.”

The building’s facade has been covered by metal panels for decades. Project architect Engberg Anderson Architects will have them removed and the facade restored as part of the redevelopment.

For more on the project’s complicated financing package, see our 2019 coverage of the city committing $12.6 million in future property tax revenue to the project. For more on the partnership and future community stakeholder events, see the project website.

The ThriveOn Collaboration is one of three major foundation-led investments in the corridor. Bader Philanthropies purchased and redeveloped a building at 3300 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. in 2018. The Dohmen Company Foundation announced last week it would relocate to a building at 2007 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. in 2021.

March 2019 Unveiling

2015 Facade Exposure

Renderings and Site Plans

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