The Walker’s Point Swimming Hole
Mandel's new apartment building will soon start to rise from large, pool-like hole.
If you didn’t know better you might think S. 5th St. in Walker’s Point was soon to be home to a new aquatics center.
A crew from Catalyst Construction has cleared a half block of buildings. The empty pit that remains is lined by white walls.
But the concrete columns projecting from the eastern edge aren’t a base for diving boards. They’re support structures for a six-story apartment building.
The market-rate apartment complex will include a fitness center with yoga, spin and fitness rooms, game room, dog wash room and rooftop deck and club room. Units layouts a mix of studio, one, two and three-bedroom options, most of which will have balconies.
The building’s name is an apparent reference to a Mexican city located approximately 95 miles southwest of Mexico City. And the surrounding Walker’s Point neighborhood has long been associated with Milwaukee’s Latino community, but the Taxco project represents a substantial change in the type of development in the area.
Almost all of the new development in Walker’s Point in the past decade has occurred without displacement, either by rehabilitating former industrial properties or developing new buildings on vacant lots.
The Taxco development is the first development to involve the demolition of multiple buildings, including an apartment building. Portions of the site were also used for parking, a patio and storage.
An affiliate of the Mandel Group paid Jose G. Zarate $2.63 million for the three properties on July 28th. The new complex is being designed by JLA Architects, with structural engineering by Spire Engineering and civil engineering by Pinnacle Engineering.
Zarate, who owns a substantial amount of property in the neighborhood, closed La Fuente restaurant in 2017. Mike Eitel operated a soccer-themed bar in the building complex in 2018 as part of the World Cup, but then it was vacant until being demolished earlier this year.
The oldest portion of the Cream City brick complex, 625-645 S. 5th St., dated back to 1890 according to city assessment records. Mandel president Ian Martin told Urban Milwaukee in a September 2020 interview that the La Fuente building had a “nice facade” but the structure behind the building is made of cinder blocks and “there [was] nothing of note about it.” Demolition work, which substantially ramped up in August, revealed the multiple cinderblock additions behind the facade.
The one-story warehouse to the north, 607 S. 5th St., was also demlished. It was notable for the mural of the singer Selena that artist Mauricio Ramirez painted on the structure in 2017. The mural was destroyed alongside the building.
A three-story apartment building, with townhouse-style units along W. Bruce St., was the final building cleared. Located at 603 S. 5th St., it was built in 1901 according to city records.
The older buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Walker’s Point Historic District, but were not locally historically protected. Mandel’s proposal, first unveiled in 2020, complies with the existing zoning for the site.
A series of townhomes are planned to wrap much of the first floor. The company, with development partner Catalyst Partners, made a deliberate decision to include the townhomes in place of commercial space. “There are a lot of storefronts, which is part of the appeal of the neighborhood,” said Martin in 2020. “We are very bullish on the area.” The building is across the street from Fuel Cafe, Walker’s Lounge and Snifters Tapas and Spirits.
What’s to become of the “swimming pool?” It will be an underground parking garage for the apartments above.
2020 Pre-Demolition Photos
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