Jeramey Jannene

Proposed East Side Tower On Hold

Rising interest rates and increased sales tax rate cited by Goll Mansion site developer.

By - Aug 7th, 2023 03:21 pm
1550 tower proposal. Rendering by Solomon Cordwell Buenz.

1550 tower proposal. Rendering by Solomon Cordwell Buenz.

A proposal to develop a 25-story apartment tower and relocate a historic mansion is in a holding pattern until at least 2024.

Developer Christopher Houden, Jr. cited rising interest rates and a new sales tax as reasons his firm, Willow Partners, will wait until at least 2024 to start construction on 1550, named for its address on N. Prospect Avenue.

“While sales tax is part of the issue, the primary reason I tabled the deal is due to the acceleration in increasing interest rates,” said Houden in a statement to Urban Milwaukee. “We remain excited about the opportunities on this site and will continue to evaluate the opportunity to move forward as conditions change. We fully support the sales tax increase, but it is a scenario we have to address. We plan to wait until the end of 2023 and monitor all contributors to cost.”

The building is to compete with the wave of other high-rise, amenity-rich luxury apartment towers that have been developed following 7Seventy7 proving the market in 2018. Ascent, the world’s tallest mass timber building, was completed in 2022. Two more buildings, 333 N. Water St. and The Couture, will welcome their first residents next year.

Houden secured zoning approval for a new design earlier this year, replacing an earlier design that his father secured approval for in 2017. But since then another competitor has emerged only a couple blocks away – New Land Enterprises25-story, 318-unit proposal for the 1400 block of N. Farwell Avenue.

Additionally, commercial interest rates have continued to tick upward. Minor increases can drastically increase borrowing costs, given the size and length of the loans. Two new sales taxes have also been introduced, 2% for the city and 0.4% for the county, which will increase the sales tax within the city of Milwaukee to 7.9% in 2024. The rate is still below many peer cities, but would impose an additional cost on construction materials.

During the latest zoning approval process, Houden said the original version wasn’t built because of the unexpected death of project architect Tom Miller in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The revised design is being led by Devon Patterson of Chicago-based Solomon Cordwell Buenz. The firm, which also designed 333 N. Water St. and 7Seventy7, was hired after a chance meeting between Houden and Patterson following Miller’s passing.

Both area Alderman Robert Bauman, who opposed the 2017 zoning change, and the Department of City Development praised the new design.

The revised design is shorter, slimmer and has a more straightforward restoration and relocation plan for the Goll Mansion, which would be moved forward. The 10,750-square-foot mansion would be used as a leasing office and mail room, with the upper floors available for office or residential uses.

North-facing balconies were removed and a new stack of west-facing balconies were added. Balconies are now inset on the south facade, adding space between 1550 and 1522 on the Lake, the residents of which opposed the 2017 change. Nine additional feet of space was added between the two buildings.

The underground parking structure is now a floor deeper, reducing its width and requiring the mansion to be moved only once. It will have between 200 and 230 spaces. The revised design’s foundation system will not require pile driving, a benefit to neighbors and one undertaken at their request.

The deeper garage allows for a potential direct connection to the Oak Leaf Trail, which runs behind the building.

Amenity floors would be included at the base and top of the building. That includes a green roof and rooftop pool.

The estimated rental cost, as of January, was $2.80 per square foot. A 1,000-square-foot unit would cost $2,800 per month.

The elder Houden, through Goll Mansion LLC, acquired the property for $1.6 million in 2016. According to state records, it was sold to Willow 1550 LLC, which paid $2.87 million for the property in April 2022.

A series of proposals in the past 15 years from New Land EnterprisesDominion Properties and the elder Houden’s DCH Properties all proposed to keep the house, with Houden’s the first to call for the house to be moved forward to create a larger development site. None of the earlier proposals secured the necessary financing to move forward.


2022 Proposal vs 2017 Approved Designs

2017 Renderings

Goll House – Interior

Goll House – Exterior

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One thought on “Proposed East Side Tower On Hold”

  1. DanRyan86 says:

    This sounds like an excuse. They’re just waiting to see how all the other projects coming online before or right after this updated timeline lease up before they’re willing to put some shovels in the ground. So disappointing they’re getting cold feet.

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