Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Former Pan Am Motel Could Be Redeveloped

TEAM and Wisconsin Redevelopment plan affordable housing on W. Wisconsin Ave.

By - Dec 14th, 2022 02:44 pm
3808 W. Wisconsin Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

3808 W. Wisconsin Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

An aging, mid-century apartment building near the Miller Valley would be redeveloped under a $25 million plan from TEAM Management and Wisconsin Redevelopment. The building was originally known as the Pan American Motel before its conversion to apartments.

The development team would rehabilitate the four-story, 75-unit building at 3808 W. Wisconsin Ave., which is substantially set back from the street. The redeveloped building would have only 25 units and a new, 54-unit building would be constructed closer to the street. The new building would have an L shape, with the roof of an existing, small parking structure between the two buildings converted to a courtyard.

“We want to be the gateway to the near West Side,” said TEAM’s Darnell Williams to the City Plan Commission on Dec. 5. The property management company’s offices are currently located in a one-story building at the front of the 1.5-acre site. That building would be demolished and TEAM would move into 7,500 square feet of commercial space in the new building.

The new unit layouts would include a mix of one, two and three-bedroom floor plans. The existing building would see its 250-square-foot studios converted to 800-square-foot, one-bedroom apartments.

“There is a current, high concentration of those smaller studio apartments” on the near West Side, said Department of City Development planning manager Sam Leichtling. “There is a long-term goal of both neighborhood stakeholders and others to see a wider mix of units constructed there.”

“I think it’s a good project to de-densify and get modern housing in that area,” said Williams. The firm has operated the existing building for several years and, according to Williams, is only able to draw “very transient type individuals.”

Leichtling said the new building would also create a more-welcoming pedestrian environment. The property is located just east of the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge over the Miller Valley.

The rehabilitation portion of the project is backed by 25 federal housing vouchers allocated earlier this year by the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee. The vouchers cover approximately 70% of rental costs for a private unit. HACM awarded 149 vouchers to seven near west side developments earlier this year. The remainder of the development relies on gaining competitively-awarded low-income housing tax credits, which require developers to set specific units aside at below-market rates for qualified, low-income renters for 30 years in exchange for income tax credits. Fifteen of the units in the new building would be leased at market rates.

The development team needs a zoning change to enable its proposal. “Despite the historic residential uses of the city, it’s currently zoned industrial,” said Leichtling. The City Plan Commission recommended rezoning the site to “Local Business – 2.” Common Council approval is still needed.

A total of 95 parking spaces would be included in the development. That includes 30 spaces in the existing structure, 30 spaces inside the new building, 24 existing surface spaces and 11 new surface spaces.

The development team is working with Galbraith Carnahan Architects on the project. Developer Todd Hutchison credited the firm with coming up with a solution to partially repurpose the two-story parking structure with a rooftop courtyard. “If it’s not repaired, there is concern that could collapse,” said Hutchison.

A planning document submitted to the city indicates the project has been in the works since at least 2020. TEAM regularly manages the several tax-credit supported apartments that Hutchison’s Wisconsin Redevelopment builds.

“It’s a great solution,” said Hutchison. “I do think this is a really underutilized site.”

The property has quite the history. The one-story building was initially used by a printing company before becoming home to the Pan American Club bar and restaurant in 1949. The rear of the site, once a filling station, gained the 75-room Pan American Motel a decade later. By 1968 both the hotel and restaurant were shuttered, with the former then repurposed into a residential care facility while briefly keeping the Pan Am name. In the 1980s it was converted to market-rate apartments and branded as “The Campus Inn” with classified advertisements pitching it to Marquette University students.

A 1960 newspaper article about the new hotel touts its “home run distance” from County Stadium. Other accounts mention the “dugout” room. The latest redevelopment keeps the baseball theme going. It would be known as the Brewers Lofts, a nod to the nearby baseball team and the sprawling Molson Coors brewing company immediately to the northwest.

But the latest proposal isn’t without opposition. James Dieter, who resides in a historic mansion on the 2400 block of W. Kilbourn Ave., gave wide-ranging testimony about what he perceives as the poor condition of the neighborhood.

“The neighborhood is like a hellhole, a containment zone,” said Dieter, who is already suing the city about the issue in federal court. “I’ve been trying to be very nice about the situation.”

He said the proposal doesn’t comply with the city’s comprehensive area plan for the broader neighborhood, which he said calls for reducing the population density. But Leichtling said that pertained to the size of housing units. The cover page of the plan says “Neighborhood’s greatest assets: Diversity and Density.”

“My concern is the quality of tenants,” said Dieter. He said he wanted the building to be market-rate apartments, not low-income, subsidized housing. The neighborhood, said Dieter, is over-saturated with low-income housing and social services and as a result people are moving away. “I would probably move too if I could sell my house, but I can’t.”

Williams said TEAM operates with three key requirements for tenants: no evictions in the past three years, no sex offenders and no felonies within three years. “Those are the core things that we look at,” he said.

Hutchison said the current building is market-rate housing. “I don’t think you’re happy with that. This is one tool we can use to improve this site,” said the developer.

“You don’t understand unless you live in the neighborhood,” said Dieter.

Commissioner Willie Smith, head of the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation, was the lone commissioner to vote against the rezoning.

Area Alderman Robert Bauman previously referred to Dieter’s pending legal claim as a “bogus lawsuit.” Bauman was not present at the commission’s hearing.


Conceptual Renderings

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