Jeramey Jannene
Friday Photos

Van Buren’s Supernova Ascent

Two projects will reshape the newly two-lane street.

By - Dec 10th, 2021 05:25 pm
Ascent (background) rises over the Nova construction site. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Ascent (background) rises over the Nova construction site. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Two apartment buildings will transform N. Van Buren St. in downtown Milwaukee, and a roadway redesign could further alter what for decades has largely functioned as a high-speed off-ramp from Interstate 794.

The most notable development is Ascent, a 25-story tower that will be the tallest mass timber building in the world.

When finished in summer 2022, the 259-unit building will rise 283 feet, eclipsing the current world leader, the Mjos Tower in Norway, by three feet. New Land Enterprises is developing the building, 700 E. Kilbourn Ave.

The structure spent much of the first half of 2021 looking nothing like a timber building. The concrete base that holds both the parking structure and seventh-story pool was built first.

But now the timber is visible at its highest levels, as a glassy facade chases it up the building. The pieces come from Austria, with suppliers KLH Massivholz and Wiehag delivering the prefitted pieces with little lead time.

The tower is being designed by Korb + Associates Architects. General contracting is being led by a partnership of CD Smith and Catalyst Construction. The Portland office of general contractor Swinerton is supporting the mass timber component of the project. Thornton Tomasetti is providing structural engineering services.

See our August profile for more information on the project and its mass timber structure.

Interior Renderings

Exterior Renderings


Two blocks north of Ascent, New Land is developing a second apartment building.

The nine-story Nova, a 251-unit apartment building, will occupy the 1.3-acre site at 1237 N. Van Buren St.

Most recently home to a Buca di Beppo restaurant and fitness center, the last tenant left the building in 2017. Western Contractors made quick work of demolishing the building this summer and now general contractor Catalyst Construction is building the new foundation.

Unlike the building two blocks to its south, Nova won’t be a mass timber structure. Leveraging the hill, it will have steel framing for its apartment floors and a concrete base.

The L-shaped building will run from N. Jackson St. to N. Van Buren St. with a two-story commercial space designed for a cafe at the corner of N. Van Buren St. and E. Juneau Ave. Parking would be included in the building’s lower levels. An outdoor pool will be included atop the 300-stall parking pedestal.

New Land secured a zoning change for the site in May to enable the building’s construction. A revision was granted in July that reduces the amount of glass at the southeastern corner and makes the third-story, east-facing balconies consistent with the floors above.

The building’s design, led by Korb + Associates Architects, will include a number of New Land trademarks. The club room will be merged with the lobby, creating a space that isn’t just a place to pass through. An emphasis will be placed on biophilia, the integration of nature, as well as the concept of play.

Ascent will serve the luxury market, while Nova will use economies of scale to deliver plenty of amenities at a lower price point.


Two-Lane Street

From Ascent at E. Kilbourn Ave. to just north of E. Brady St., N. Van Buren St. is now a two-lane street with a center turn lane. But that might not be the end of the alterations.

Under its longstanding configuration, N. Van Buren St. was a four-lane street with two travel lanes in each direction.

Area Alderman Robert Bauman is backing the addition of further improvements to the corridor, which could include protected bicycle lanes. Painted bicycle lanes were added with the November restriping.

At a Public Works Committee meeting earlier this month, Bauman encouraged the Department of Public Works to think big with its planning. He suggested that a tax incremental financing district could be created to harvest the property tax revenue from the new developments to pay for the project.

The one-way portion of N. Van Buren St., which exists south of E. Kilbourn Ave., was unchanged as part of the November project.

For more on the project, see our November coverage.

UPDATE: This column originally said Nova would be built of traditional 5-over-1 lumber construction. An earlier version of the project would have, but the final version will use steel.

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.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us