Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Demolition Underway on River One

Following explosion, construction and demolition are occurring side by side.

By - Feb 4th, 2021 01:33 pm
Demolition to repair damage from an explosion is underway at River One. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Demolition to repair damage from an explosion is underway at River One. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Sidewalk architects might want to take a walk across the S. 1st St. bridge over the Kinnickinnic River, a unique situation is at hand.

A building is being both constructed and demolished at the same time.

While a crew from Gilbane Building Co. works to complete the eight-story office building that will soon be home to Michels Corp’s new civil infrastructure division, subcontractor Veit is smashing a portion of the attached parking garage.

The juxtaposition is a result of a December 12th explosion of multiple propane tanks in the basement of the two-level structure. No injuries were reported.

Michels Corp., an infrastructure contractor based in rural Brownsville just outside of Fond du Lac, is developing (but not building) the $100 million River One complex at the northwest corner of S. 1st St. and W. Becher St.

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. A second phase, already under construction, includes an apartment complex at the eastern end of the site atop the parking structure.

Gilbane, as the general contractor, is handling the repairs for what was estimated by the Milwaukee Fire Department at nearly $3 million in damage. Reportedly damaged in the explosion was furniture and other equipment that Michels was waiting to move into its space at the top three floors of the building. The fire department estimated that “associated property and fixtures” damaged in the explosion and subsequent fire have a replacement cost of $890,000.

The damage to the structure itself was quite severe, as indicated by the partial demolition. Damaged support columns were visible along the river. Multiple masonry walls were blown away. The masonry wall on the second story of the structure was visibly sloped, no longer in perfect alignment with its neighbors. A significant amount of brickwork encasing the columns and walls was also missing.

Department of Neighborhood Services inspector Michael Demski‘s report said the parking structure 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.

An array of construction equipment can now be seen working to demolish the portion of the parking structure between the office building and apartment complex. A building permit from Gilbane indicates a replacement is coming.

A subcontractor applied for a permit on January 8th to add two temporary 500-gallon propane tanks to the site. A second request was made for two more tanks on January 14th. Roman Electric Co. Inc. applied for an electrical permit to “repair or replace” lighting in the parking structure with an estimated job cost of $1.5 million.

A spokesperson for Michels did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

With the explosion behind it, the development, sometimes stylized as R1VER, will be one of the largest in the Harbor District.

Approximately 120,000 square feet of space remains for lease in the office building at the northwest corner of the approximately six-acre site. Michels will occupy the top three 27,200-square-foot floors with approximately 250 employees.

Floors of apartments, consisting of 95 units, will rise above a floor filled with commercial space along S. 1st St. A space for a restaurant is included on the river, while a cafe space is planned for the southeast corner.

Both buildings are directly connected to the parking structure, which covers almost the entire property.

Architecture firm RINKA is leading the complex’s design.

A hotel and an additional office building are also planned. Tim Michels said in September 2019 that the company found an operating partner for the hotel, but didn’t announce the company’s name. Site plans indicate it would be located in the southwest corner of the development site along the river and W. Becher St.

Michels is already making another investment in the area. The company is launching a marine division approximately a mile to the east. It’s leasing 17.4 acres of the city’s Grand Trunk site at 632 E. Bay St. for a period of up to 99 years. The initial term is 20 years. It anticipates creating 100 jobs according to an application filed with the city.


Demolition Photos

December 24th Photos

December 16th Apartments & Parking Structure

December 16th Office Building

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