15-Story Mass Timber Tower for Riverfront
220 apartments, but little parking in downtown building, as firm pushes environmental benefits.
The structure would be built from mass timber, an engineered product made by combining layers of lumber into a stronger material. It would be the third mass timber building in the city, joining the low-rise Timber Lofts in Walker’s Point and Ascent, a 25-story luxury apartment tower under construction in East Town that will be the tallest mass timber building in the world when completed. The emerging technology is lighter than concrete, faster to assemble and fire resistant. The exposed wood structure is anticipated to command a price premium when marketing the apartments for rent.
The Neutral Project is the sustainability-focused real estate firm behind the project. The company would purchase and demolish the one-story Rojahn & Malaney Company floral warehouse at 1005 N. Edison St. creating a 0.6-acre development site. The florist listed the site for sale starting in 2016.
“It correlates with our effort to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Helbach. The site is located within walking distance of many downtown office buildings, multiple grocery stores and is directly east of the Deer District.
He said a market study confirmed the demand for the building. “We think that area is poised for more growth,” said the developer.
Units would be a mix of studio, one, two and three-bedroom layouts. Approximately 9,000 square feet of commercial space would be located in the building’s base, much of it facing the riverwalk.
A number of amenity spaces are planned for tenants, including a “cool library-like coworking space,” said Helbach. The coworking space would have soundproof nooks for individuals to work from home, but still leave their apartments. A full gym is planned for tenants as well as a game room and lounge space. The building’s entrance would be at the corner of E. State St. and N. Edison St., across from the Marcus Performing Arts Center.
Janesville-based Angus-Young is serving as both the architect of record and structural engineer with Vancouver-based Michael Green Architecture as the design architect. The latter firm has designed and built a number of mass timber buildings.
Helbach said his firm hopes to make landscaping improvements to the city-owned grass lot to the north of the development site. A sidewalk leading to the Highland Avenue pedestrian bridge bisects the lot.
To the south is where detailed review by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is currently required. The firm hopes to make modifications to the historically-protected Street Street Bridge abutments.
The commission will review that portion of the project at an upcoming meeting. The City Plan Commission and Common Council will also need to review a zoning change for the project.
In May, Helbach said the hope was to break ground by late October. Project review by the Department of City Development and other city departments was already well underway at that point.
“It’s been a lot easier than our Madison project,” said Helbach, referencing a similar proposal his firm is pursuing for a site east of the Capitol. He credited much of that to the City of Milwaukee’s prior review of Ascent, which started in 2018. A 2021 modification to the International Building Code also now allows for mass timber buildings up to 18 stories in height.