Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Timber Lofts Wins National Design Award

City's first mass timber project, in Walker's Point, chosen best new wood apartment building.

By - Mar 4th, 2021 06:38 pm
Corner unit at Timber Lofts. Image provided.

Corner unit at Timber Lofts. Image provided.

The best new wood apartment building in the country is in Milwaukee.

So says the WoodWorks – Wood Products Council. The non-profit bestowed the Timber Lofts apartment building with its 2021 Multi-Family Wood Design award.

And while most new apartment buildings are made of lumber, the 60-unit building at 331 S. 3rd St. is the first in the city to use mass timber, a man-made lumber product, in its structure.

Developer Ann Pieper Eisenbrown‘s project, completed in 2020, involves a four-story, horizontal mass timber addition to the 138-year-old, five-story Louis Bass Building.

The resulting units, designed by Engberg Anderson Architects and built by Catalyst Construction, have a substantial amount of exposed wood that is billed as an aesthetic benefit.

But it’s not just a visual benefit. Because it mimics many of the properties of old-growth lumber, mass timber is more desirable than conventional wood construction. It only chars (rather than burning through) in a fire, reduces on-site construction time and offers enhanced strength.

The engineered material offers substantial environmental benefits over steel or concrete. Pieper Eisenbrown chose cross-laminated timber (CLT) from Austria-based KLH as her mass timber product of choice.

Engberg partner Mark Ernst told Urban Milwaukee in 2019 that the new use of mass timber allows compatibility between the historic building, with its exposed, old-growth wood ceilings, and the new building and exposed CLT ceilings.

“There is a simplicity to this that is pretty amazing,” said Ernst as the highest CLT panel in the building was lifted into place. Pierce Engineers served as the structural engineering consultant on the project.

The building, now complete, is the winner in one of nine annual categories recognized by WoodWorks.

“This year’s award winners epitomize the innovation, resilience, and flexibility required for projects to flourish in a changing world. We’re excited to see design and development teams approaching projects holistically, with buildings that respond uniquely to their communities,” said WoodWorks president and CEO Jennifer Cover in a statement. “From one of the most environmentally advanced education buildings in the southeast to a historic winery in Napa, CA, wood continues to demonstrate its value as a nimble and modern building material, ushering in new precedents and challenging the public’s perception of its role in the built world.”

The Timber Lofts project is one of only two in the Midwest to win an award. The other, winner of the jury’s choice award, is also located in Wisconsin, the Freedom House Ministries transitional living complex in Green Bay. Built with light-wood framing and adorned with cedar siding, the housing complex is attached to an administrative building and built into the side of a hill.

The Milwaukee project is far from Pieper Eisenbrown’s first.

In 2018 she opened the Serif Apartments in a redeveloped building attached to the Louis Bass structure. Both structures were originally built by Pabst Brewing Company as speculative warehouse properties. Pieper Eisenbrown also redeveloped a former warehouse immediately east of the Louis Bass building, now known as 234 Florida, into office space almost a decade earlier.

The $14.6 million Timber Lofts project relied on $2 million in historic preservation tax credits to support the redevelopment of the Louis Bass structure.

And while Timber Lofts is the first of its kind in Milwaukee, it won’t be the last. New Land Enterprises is actively constructing Ascent, a 25-story, luxury apartment building built from mass timber. When complete it will be the tallest mass timber building in the world. Architecture firm Korb + Associates Architects posted a photo on social media this week of the CLT mass timber product, again from KLH, being prepped for shipment to Milwaukee.


Topping Off Ceremony Photos

July 2019 Photos


One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Timber Lofts Wins National Design Award”

  1. Johnstanbul says:

    This project could not have turned out more beautifully. A really remarkable work.

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