Jeramey Jannene
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Ascent Begins Its Climb

World's tallest mass timber building will first take shape as concrete pedestal.

By - Jan 22nd, 2021 03:43 pm
Construction progress on Ascent, a 25-story apartment tower. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Construction progress on Ascent, a 25-story apartment tower. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

What’s to be the tallest mass timber building in the world will first appear as a concrete colossus.

The first six floors of the 25-story Ascent apartment tower will be made from concrete and accommodate the building’s parking garage, the base of a swimming pool and other heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) infrastructure. The building’s elevator and stair cores will also be framed in concrete.

The start of that structure is now visible at 700 E. Kilbourn Ave. When finished, it will top out at 283 feet, surpassing the 280-foot Mjos Tower in Norway.

Mass timber is an engineered product made by combining layers of lumber into a stronger material. The material is capable of building much taller buildings than conventional wood construction methods because in a fire it only chars (rather than burning through) and offers enhanced strength. In early 2020 a model unit passed a three-hour fire test. The building material is spreading quickly from Austria, where it was invented, and the Pacific Northwest, where it has been most commonly implemented in the United States.

But it will be awhile before the cross-laminated timber product used to frame Ascent’s residential floors will arrive in Milwaukee from Europe. The first shipment from KLH Massivholz is expected to arrive in May.

The building will contain 259 apartments. A pool is planned on the sixth floor with fully operable windows. A sauna, steam room and entertainment center are also planned for what the firm is calling a “wellness floor.” The top floor of the tower will include a resident amenity suite with two outdoor decks, fire pits, grilling stations, a clubhouse, kitchen and co-working space.

New Land Enterprises is leading the development. Korb + Associates Architects is leading the building design.

The project partners believe the exposed-wood look afforded by using mass timber will offer an aesthetic benefit that will draw tenants.

New Land began pre-leasing the building in April and reports it has a number of commitments, made by a $500 deposit. The tower is scheduled to open in summer 2022.

A joint venture of Catalyst Construction and CD Smith is leading the building’s construction. The Portland office of general contractor Swinerton is also supporting the mass timber component of the project. Thornton Tomasetti is providing structural engineering services. The project team, in refining the building’s design and mechanical systems, has twice increased the building’s size. The latest modification added two floors to the building.

The building will be the city’s second mass timber structure. Ann Pieper Eisenbrown celebrated topping off her four-story mass timber addition to the Louis Bass Building at 331 S. 3rd St. in early December and completed the building earlier this year. And New Land has a seven-story, mass timber office building planned for Westown.

New Land is also planning another apartment building a few blocks north of Ascent at 1237 N. Van Buren St. The eight-story building would have up to 220 apartments, but none made from mass timber.



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