Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

Work Resuming On Explosion-Damaged River One

The damage will cost millions. The cause of explosion is still under investigation.

By - Dec 27th, 2020 02:35 pm
Damaged parking structure at River One. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Damaged parking structure at River One. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Following an unexplained explosion, work is moving forward on River One. The first phase of the $100 million mixed-use complex is nearing completion in Milwaukee’s Harbor District, but an explosion and resulting fire on the morning of December 12th caused millions of dollars in damage to the lower level of the parking garage. No one was injured.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation according to general contractor Gilbane. The company is leading the general contracting on much of the complex, including the garage and eight-story office building, but Greenfire Management Services leads the construction of the apartment complex. The development’s owner, Michels Corp., is an infrastructure contractor, adding another experienced firm to the mix.

A Michels executive declined to comment last week, telling Urban Milwaukee: “I have nothing to tell you” and declining to answer any follow-up questions. But some information from other sources is available this week.

“Construction work is proceeding on the project and remedial work is being coordinated and expected to proceed shortly. The cause of the incident is under investigation,” said a Gilbane spokesperson in a statement to BizTimes reporter Alex Zank.

A city report shows the Department of Neighborhood Services estimated damages at $2,114,595 for the structure and $888,129.88 for associated property and fixtures. Looking at the site from the S. 1st St. bridge over the Kinnickinnic River, damaged support columns are visible in the parking structure. Multiple masonry walls have been blown away. The masonry wall on the second story of the structure is now angled, no longer in perfect alignment with its neighbors. A notable amount of brickwork encasing the columns and walls is also missing.

DNS inspector Michael Demski‘s report says the parking structure has suffered “structural failure,” particularly the northern edge with the visible damage. The slab underneath the apartment building, just east of the damaged columns, is also described as damaged.

The actual costs of repair are expected to differ from the estimate, according to Milwaukee Fire Department deputy chief Daniel Lipski. He told Zank that the department uses a different methodology to calculate the costs and relies on national averages.

The $49 million first phase of the development is planned to include the office building, 1,052-stall parking garage and riverwalk segment along the Kinnickinnic River, which wraps the west and north side of the project site. Architecture firm RINKA is leading the complex’s design.

Michels, which is headquartered in rural Brownsville just outside of Fond du Lac, will anchor the office building with its new civil infrastructure division. Two large staircases are visible through a bump-out in the glass facade. They connect the three floors at the top of the new building that Michels will occupy.

Many of the positions in the 250-employee division will be in engineering or other highly-technical fields. “People that, quite frankly, are easier to recruit in Milwaukee than other places,” said Stegeman in September 2018. Firm vice president Tim Michels said in August 2018 that he hopes the firm will eventually employ 800 people at the site. The company has more than 5,000 employees. Michels’ website boasts that the firm has over 12,000 pieces of equipment and 40 locations.

A second phase of development will build two attached apartment buildings, and is progressing on the east end of the site. Four floors of apartments rise above a floor filled with commercial space and the parking structure. A space for a restaurant is included on the river, while a cafe space is planned for the other corner.

A hotel and an additional office building are also planned. Tim Michels said in September 2019 that the company found an operating partner, but didn’t announce the company’s name. A limited liability company, known as Becher Hotel, is listed in city assessment records as the owner of one of the condominium units that forms the development site. The state Department of Financial Institutions does not have any available records for the hotel LLC, nor two of the six others. Each of the entities contains Becher, a reference to the property’s address at 218 W. Becher St., in its name.


December 24th Photos

December 16th Apartments & Parking Structure

December 16th Office Building

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