Jeramey Jannene
Friday Photos

Nova Nears Completion

New apartment complex at Juneau and Van Buren will welcome first residents this summer.

By - Apr 7th, 2023 11:18 am
Nova at N. Van Buren St. and E. Juneau Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Nova at N. Van Buren St. and E. Juneau Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Downtown Milwaukee’s newest apartment building is preparing to welcome its first residents.

Nova, a nine-story building, now anchors the intersection of N. Van Buren St. and E. Juneau Ave.

A newly-launched leasing website invites future residents to “shine brighter” or “live bolder” by moving into the building when it opens this summer.

Developer New Land Enterprises‘ website shows 16 floorplans, with rental rates starting at $1,625 per month for a one-bedroom layout, $2,695 for a two-bedroom and $4,360 for a three-bedroom. The two-level, two-bedroom townhomes facing N. Van Buren St. start at $3,750.

Residents of the 251 apartments will find a host of amenities, including an outdoor pool, deck and grills, fitness center, community kitchen and electric vehicle charging stations.

The neighborhood itself is also an amenity. It’s within a block of two grocery stores, next to a streetcar station, a half-mile from the lake and downtown office cluster and within walking distance of several bars and restaurants. Van Buren Street itself, at New Land’s suggestion, is planned for a pedestrian-friendly makeover.

Nova’s design, led by Korb + Associates Architects, includes a number of New Land trademarks. The complex features heated floors as it uses a radiant heating system. The club room is being merged with the lobby, creating a space that isn’t just a place to pass through. An emphasis is being placed on biophilia, the integration of nature, as well as the concept of play. The firm’s KinetiK building in Bay View has swings in the lobby and little nooks for people to use laptops or hang out with friends.

The L-shaped building runs 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 is included in the base of the building, with the pool sitting atop the western portion of the structure. Owing to the site’s slope, the Jackson Street side has a three-story parking base, while the Van Buren Street side has a two-story base.

A row of townhomes will shield the concrete base along N. Van Buren St., the building’s longest side, while the west and north sides will be more austere, with patterned pieces adorning the concrete walls. The north side faces what was once E. Knapp St. and could have had its own townhomes, if not for the fact that the city vacated the street in the urban renewal era and allowed it to become a privately-owned surface parking lot.

The complex’s structure is a relatively uncommon framing material for Milwaukee buildings: steel. While steel can be found in virtually every building in the city, its use as a structural material in new apartments is relatively limited. Developers often pursue stick-frame, wood buildings constructed in a five-over-one style (five floors of wood atop a one-story concrete parking structure). The five-over-one technique maximizes the number of floors that can be legally built with a cheaper building material (traditional lumber). Taller buildings, such as The Couture, are often built with concrete. New Land is well versed in doing the unusual at this point, with its tower a few blocks to the south, Ascent, breaking the mold in an even bigger way. The 25-story mass-timber structure is now the tallest such building in the world.

Nova is not designed to compete with Ascent, the new mass timber tower, which is positioned at the high end of the market. Instead, Nova is intended to use economies of scale to deliver a desirable number of amenities, including a pool, while keeping a relatively low price point for a new building.

The Nova site, 1237 N. Van Buren St., was long known for its former tenant: a Buca di Beppo restaurant. But the restaurant closed in 2017, and an attached gym was already vacant.

Catalyst Construction is leading the general contracting on the project.

An affiliate of New Land acquired the 1.3-acre property in April 2021 from a limited liability company controlled by Johnny Vassallo for $2.3 million. Vassallo had acquired the property in October 2020 for $2.1 million from an affiliate of Elite Sports Club while New Land already had a contract in place to purchase the property in 2021.

The adjacent United States Postal Service building, 606 E. Juneau Ave., was sold in August 2021 for $3.74 million. Mbogo Properties and an affiliate of Location Finders International jointly acquired the 38,193-square-foot, one-story building from an entity owned by the Marcus family. The USPS lease goes through 2025.

The Marcus family owned the post office structure for decades and attempted to delay Nova’s approval in early 2021. But New Land managing director Tim Gokhman said his firm had previously shared its plans with Marcus representatives and reached out other times. Neither the City Plan Commission, nor the Common Council delayed the project.

When the building opens this summer it will be the newest apartment building Downtown, but it won’t have that claim for long. Several other buildings are already well under construction from the Street Car Flats and the River Bank Plaza redevelopment. Two major projects, 333 N. Water St. and The Couture, won’t open until 2024.



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4 thoughts on “Friday Photos: Nova Nears Completion”

  1. Wardt01 says:

    Well written article. Kudos!

  2. Polaris says:

    Such a smart and creative building…nice!

    What I really like to hear is that mid-rise buildings (up to 12 stories) can be financially feasible downtown. I like 7-10 stories, personally and would like to see more of it. Civilized, a little more opportunity for sun, and still capable of building an active neighborhood. Not everything needs to be a high rise and, greater opportunity to cover empty surface lots by “going horizontal.”

  3. It is great to see this new apartment building in the neighborhood. With recent announcements of thousands of more jobs blocks away coming to Northwestern Mutual, the announcement of Fiserv Global Headquarters and the new Milwaukee Tool office just a streetcar ride away, and numerous other developments, this is an excellent location for workers. With a walk score of 95, the location is great. I live nearby in a more affordable apartment, but I know that unless there is more supply of apartments, people will outbid the apartment I am in, and the rent will rise. This is the effect of supply and demand from Economics 101. I also know that many people who are owners of buildings or condos nearby have an economic interest in suppressing a new supply of apartments out of a desire to keep housing scarce and see prices rise. They will likely not be pleased with the additional supply because they desire to suppress the free market from operating. Also, people who are used to suburban prices (and suburban walk scores) will find it puzzling that some people would want to live here. Although NovaMKE is way above my income level, I am glad to see a new building here. I was concerned about the blighted, abandoned restaurant and blighted, abandoned fitness center and surface parking lot that existed at this site for many years. A new building also adds to the tax base and the population of the city. The nearby affordable/market rate building proposal, Convent Hill South, should move forward to also add to the supply of more affordable apartments. Apartments at all income levels are needed.

  4. gsklodowska says:

    Should be interesting what those townhouse folks paying almost $4K/month think of bar time across the street at Victors!

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