Jeramey Jannene

Northwestern Mutual Considers Options For University Club

Including events, a restaurant and hotel. Plan commission okays zoning change.

By - May 7th, 2024 09:29 am
University Club of Milwaukee, 924 E. Wells St. Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

University Club of Milwaukee, 924 E. Wells St. Michael Barera, (CC BY-SA 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Northwestern Mutual secured its first public approval Monday in its quest to overhaul the former University Club.

The private club abruptly vacated the six-story downtown building in December. It then reached a deal to sell the property, 924 E. Wells St., to the insurance company, which has its corporate campus a block to the south.

The company hasn’t identified exactly what it will do with the property. “We have a lot of work to do before we make any concrete plans,” vice president Steve Radke told the City Plan Commission.

He said future uses could include dining, “guest accommodations” and space for meetings. “To the degree that they’re utilized by Northwestern Mutual or by the public, all still to be determined,” said Radke.

Those uses would be in line with how the University Club long used the 58,000-square-foot structure after opening the building in 1928. It sits at the intersection of N. Prospect Avenue and E. Wells Street overlooking Lake Michigan. A small portion of the club contained hotel rooms.

Northwestern Mutual, which has an agreement to purchase the property, is pursuing a zoning change to the city’s generic C9B “downtown – residential and specialty use” designation.

Department of City Development planner Kristin Connelly said the change is consistent with the city’s downtown plan and would allow for a “mix of urban activities” at the property.

The club received a specialized “detailed planned development” zoning designation in 2003 as part of the development of the attached University Club Tower, a residential high-rise. The only allowed use under the specially-tailored designation is “social club.”

But even with more flexibility on what happens inside, Northwestern Mutual wouldn’t be free to modify the exterior of the property.

Because the building is locally designated as a historic structure, any changes to the exterior would still require approval from the Historic Preservation Commission.

In a statement, Northwestern Mutual said it values the historic nature of the building. “Our initial focus will be on addressing mechanical issues and deferred maintenance, which we anticipate will take up to a year to complete. This would include, for example, roof replacement, façade repairs, as well as the building systems such as electrical, plumbing and elevators throughout the interior,” said the company.

The City Plan Commission unanimously endorsed the proposal. The Common Council will next review it.

Commission chair Allyson Nemec, a partner at Quorum Architects, abstained from voting on the project because she is working on Northwestern Mutual’s $500 million North Office Building project to transform a granite-clad, 19-story high rise into a miniature clone of the 32-story Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons. That project involves shuttering the company’s Franklin campus and bringing thousands more workers Downtown.

The University Club continues to operate its “country club,” the former Tripoli Country Club, 7401 N. 43rd St., in Brown Deer. The two clubs merged in 2016, taking on the University Club brand and positioning the two facilities as “city club” and “country club.”

The Georgian Revival-style club building that Northwestern Mutual plans to buy was designed by architect John Russell Pope. According to a Wisconsin Historical Society report, the partial sixth floor was added in 1953. The club was founded in 1898 by a group of college graduates with a mission to share ideas and grow relationships. The Tripoli Club was founded in 1921.

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Categories: Real Estate

One thought on “Northwestern Mutual Considers Options For University Club”

  1. Thomas Sepllman says:

    Good news for Milwaukee What are the RISKS that are there waiting to destroy all this GOOD Does Urban Milwaukee continue to bury its head OR will they finally deal with the will it be 80,000 suspensions this year from MPS and all the other schools as well. Many of those children are time bombs needing therapy to help their body/brains to deal with the trauma that they have experienced or are experiencing now. How much longer will it take before Urban Milwaukee and the rest of the media begin to tell the story of the children who are being suspended. Recently MJS wrote an in depth story about the 34 year old man who dismember the woman he murdered. All the times that he cried out for help only to be ignored until this time he can no longer be ignored. But the damage to the victims family and to his own and to the community will live on for a long time and it ALL could have been prevented had someone care enough to first realize that he was asking for help and them providing the therapy that he needed so his body/brain could heal itself. I try again to get someone to call 414 403 1341 Tom Spellman

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