Element Apartments’ Construction Begins
6-story building with 66 units. Redesign of S. 5th St. big draw for neighborhood investment.
The 2017 redesign of S. 5th St. continues to draw new investment to Walker’s Point.
From W. Virginia St. on the north to W. Washington St. on the south, the city undertook a comprehensive rebuilding of the street that resulted in sidewalks being widened from 7.5 feet to 18.5 feet and a number of street trees being planted. Businesses took note of the pedestrian-friendly environment and began arriving in droves, repurposing existing buildings into breweries, restaurants, stores and an architectural studio. Coakley Brothers put the cherry on top when it added an artistic water tower to its seven-story headquarters as part of a renovation effort.
Known as Element, the six-story building will contain 66 apartments. Construction is expected to be completed by summer 2022, with units leased at market rates. A first-floor commercial space will be included in the building, built on a corner lot at S. 5th St. and W. Mineral St.
New Land managing director Tim Gokhman told Urban Milwaukee in a 2020 interview that part of the draw to the site was the 2017 road diet. “The remake of 5th Street, honestly, that should be the recipe,” said Gokhman of future street projects.
But the company, which has historically done much of its development in Downtown and the Lower East Side, isn’t new to the neighborhood. “We love Walker’s Point,” said Gokhman.
It first completed Trio, a three-building complex, at 1029 S. 1st St. in 2016. Then in 2020, the firm completed Quartet, fully leasing the 48-unit building at 1001 S. 2nd St. within two months of its opening.
Korb + Associates Architects is designing the building. Catalyst Construction is building the structure. Both are frequent New Land collaborators.
As it has with the past projects, the firm sought out a mostly-vacant site. It merged the 17,500-square-foot grass lot at 934 S. 5th St. with a 3,500-square-foot site at 924 S. 5th St. created by the demolition of a substantially-altered, two-story building originally constructed in 1880. Another frequent New Land collaborator, Recyclean, completed the demolition work earlier this year. Gokhman said the firm recommended demolition over salvage-focused deconstruction because of the lack of materials to save following the repeated alterations.
The new building is targeted at reaching what Gohkman describes as an “aggressive price point” for new construction without a government subsidy. He said there is a large market of people that make enough that they don’t qualify for buildings subsidized by low-income housing tax credits, but can’t afford high-end new buildings. Developers have struggled to service that market segment due to a variety of factors including construction and land costs, zoning regulations and financing.
“I think we were able to do it at Quartet,” said the developer. “We were able to build an aesthetically and design-oriented building at an affordable price point.” One-bedroom units rent for between $1,200 to $1,300 per month, with two bedrooms starting at $1,500. The company will try to do it again at Element.
A handful of neighborhood residents testified against the proposal, saying it would bring increased crime and traffic. But the Department of City Development and Alderman Jose G. Perez supported the proposal, thanking the development team for revising the proposal based on city feedback.
A potentially more controversial proposal for the street is waiting in the wings. In September, the Mandel Group requested preliminary review on a proposal for a 144-unit building at 603-645 S. 5th St. that would involve the demolition of existing buildings and the development of surface parking lots. Perez has repeatedly noted that Walker’s Point development has avoided any substantial displacement to date, but the new building would include the demolition of a small apartment building.
New Land, meanwhile, is moving ahead on a number of projects outside of Walker’s Point. It’s developing Ascent, the tallest mass-timber building in the world, in the East Town neighborhood. The first mass timber components on that building are scheduled to arrive next month, with the concrete parking structure currently rising. It’s also advancing plans for Nova, a 251-unit apartment building for the L-shaped site at 1237 N. Van Buren St.
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.