Posts tagged with "downtown milwaukee":

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Milwaukee’s Kahler Slater adds another glass tower to the city’s changing skyline

Downtown Milwaukee is going through what could only be called a renaissance. Along with the proposed revitalization of the multi-block Grand Avenue Mall, a slew of towers from the shore of Lake Michigan to the west end of the downtown are changing the skyline of Milwaukee. It has been decades since Milwaukee has seen such a building boom. With construction starting later this year, the 25-story BMO Harris Financial Center will be one of the next to join what will be a transformed downtown.

Designed by Milwaukee-based Kahler Slater, the new tower will sit immediately next to the current BMO Harris Building, home to the Chicago-based bank’s main Milwaukee office. Once complete, the bank will move to the new office tower and open a new branch in the building. The Irgens development firm, which is overseeing the new tower, will also lead the redevelopment of the older building. The current BMO Harris Building, a 20-story modernist block, was built in 1967.

Currently, BMO Harris’s own five-story parking structure sits on the site. Just across from the site is the Flemish Renaissance revival–style City Hall, a National Historic Landmark and one of the most iconic structures in the city. This site is also in the heart of the city’s historic financial district. While much of the latest development has shifted to the south and east, closer to the lake, the area has continued to see more and more traffic, as theater and entertainment spaces have come to the area.

“The project is on one of the most desirable parcels in town, just kitty corner from the City Hall,” said Glenn Roby, vice president at Kahler Slater and the principal in charge of the project, said. “What an opportunity to replace such an unfortunate use of the corner as a parking deck. So, we were really excited from the start.”

The new tower’s massing will make reference to its modernist neighbor, while also implying slenderness through its split form. The base of the tower will be a 10-story podium of parking and public-facing amenities. Retail and the bank’s retail branch will make up the ground level. The facade will also add to its vertical reading by stretching down over the podium and up past the roofline.      

This is not the first project that Kahler Slater and Irgens have completed together in recent history. Notably, the two worked on the newly completed 833 East tower, which sits on the lake side of the downtown. “The relationship with Irgens is fantastic. It has really evolved over the years,” explained Roby. “They do this often. They are very sophisticated. They know what they want. We understand what they value, and that helps shape what we deliver.”

Besides the few surviving late 19th-century structures, Milwaukee’s downtown is a milieu of parking structures and second-string postmodern towers. When the BMO Harris Financial Center is complete in 2019, glassy towers—a typology that is only now making its way to the city—will dominate the skyline. Add in the new bikeshare program and forthcoming streetcar, and Milwaukee’s downtown will be unrecognizable.

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Gensler designs a new vision for the unloved Milwaukee Post Office

The long, low-slung Milwaukee Post Office is not a popular building. The rust-covered Brutalist structure sits along a five-block stretch of the Menominee Riverfront, a place that, until recently, was generally seen as the undesirable backside of the city. But that is all quickly changing. Just east of the post office, the Third Ward neighborhood has been completely transformed in the last ten years. The Menominee River Valley to the west is also seeing new life after over 100 years of being the city’s industrial heart. Now, Chicago-based developers R2, in collaboration with Gensler, are betting on a brighter future for the much-maligned post office.

When R2 bought the building and the surrounding land for $13 million in 2015, it knew it was going to be a long-term project. The United States Postal Service has a lease for its space through 2020, with the option to sign for up to 30 years. Even if the Postal Service were to vacate, the site would always have active train lines running under the building, between its massive concrete piloti. But that is not stopping R2 from planning ahead.

R2 and Gensler recently released new renderings and an outline of their plans for the site. Gensler’s designs call for a major mixed-use development that incorporates office space, residential, and entertainment, as well as small and big-box retail. The site benefits from extensive access to transportation, including ramps from the adjacent elevated freeway, the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, the city’s main Amtrak and Greyhound station, and the now under-construction city streetcar.

“The concerns that are on the site, that in the past have be seen as barriers to development, are now seen as potential drivers for the project,” explained Benjy Ward, Gensler principal and regional design leader. “The market has flipped. The elevated highway that runs by the site and the river have become assets.”

Along with renovating the current building, the project could include two large towers at each end of the site. The east tower would have 282,000 square feet of residential space, while the west tower (along with space in the existing building) would account for nearly one million square feet of office space. The 1,500 feet of riverfront would also be developed as a public promenade and an extension of the city’s growing Riverwalk. Restaurants will line the promenade, and kayak launches and boat docks will connect the project with river traffic. A foot bridge is proposed to connect the existing building to the James Biber–designed Harley Davidson Museum across the river.

Though the Postal Service will remain a tenant in the building for at least the next few years, Gensler’s plans are such that, if given the go-ahead, the project could begin. By working in the currently open land around the building, much of the proposal could be realized without disrupting normal operations.

If realized, the post office project will be one of many changing the face of downtown Milwaukee. Of those projects rising just north of the site, few are as ambitious in scale or program. Yet with at least three years to go before the site could be completely free of its current tenant, the city is going to have to wait a bit for delivery.

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A handful of new projects are transforming Milwaukee’s downtown skyline

With at least four new towers, all within a few blocks of one another, either completed or planned to be completed before 2020, Milwaukee’s skyline is seeing its greatest change in recent memory. Though the city’s East Side and Third Ward, immediately north and south of downtown, respectively, have seen modest development over the past 15 years, the downtown itself has been decidedly quiet for more than 20 years.

The first project to be finished was 833 East Michigan Avenue. At 18 stories, the $100 million tower is tall by Milwaukee standards. The multitenant office building was designed by Milwaukee-based Kahler Slater. With so few contemporary office buildings downtown, 833 East stands out with its integrated technology and open floor plans. And with views of Lake Michigan on three sides, the project is particularly appealing as the city continues to improve the lakefront.

Less than a block away, one of Milwaukee’s most recognized businesses, Northwestern Mutual, is doubling down on its investment here. The company’s 32-story, 1.1-million-square-foot office tower will be one of the cities largest and tallest buildings. The $450 million project includes the tower and a lowrise, with a two-block-long commons, which will connect the highrise to Northwestern Mutual’s other historic Benjamin H. Marshall–designed neoclassical office building. Designed by New Haven–based Pickard Chilton, the tower is a sweeping curve not dissimilar to Chicago’s 333 Wacker. Well underway, the project has already significantly changed downtown´s appearance. Much to the delight of the city, the tower will help maintain 1,100 jobs in the neighborhood, while potentially adding another 1,900. The commons will feature public spaces, including the new Northwestern Mutual Gardens, a visitors’ center, and a public cafe.

Northwestern Mutual is not stopping with a new office tower. Immediately northwest of the tower, site work has begun on its next investment, a 33-story residential, parking, and retail tower. Even though this structure, designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz, will be shorter than the office tower, it will add 300 residential units to a downtown that is almost completely devoid of housing. Northwestern Mutual’s decision to build both a residential and office tower in the often-sleepy downtown is intended to strengthen the city. “We believe in Milwaukee. It’s been our hometown for virtually all of our 155 years,” Northwestern Mutual chairman and CEO John E. Schlifske said. “This will be a signature development that makes a huge statement about the attractiveness of the whole Milwaukee metro area. We are going to be here and continue to play a vital role in this community for generations to come.”

Adding to the housing stock of the area, another skyscraper has just taken a major step toward becoming realized. The much-anticipated Couture, designed by Milwaukee-based Rinka|Chung, has recently received approval from the federal government for the demolition of the transit center that is currently on its site. Federal approval was required because the transit center was partially paid for with federal money. Local company Barrett Visionary Development is currently in the process of acquiring the land, and is expecting to start site work, including demolition, by August, with construction starting in earnest in early 2017. With completion of the $122 million project expected to wrap up in 2019, the Couture will rise 44 stories and include a public-transit concourse for Milwaukee’s forthcoming streetcar. The base of the tower will include 50,000 square feet of retail. Its position directly on Lincoln Memorial Boulevard means residents will have uninterrupted views of Lake Michigan, the Discovery World museum, the Santiago Calatrava–designed Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Eero Saarinen–designed War Memorial.

Rinka|Chung also has its hands in the planned Lakefront Gateway Project, which will help connect all of these developments to the lakefront. Led by Milwaukee-based GRAEF, a team comprising of Rinka|Chung, Vancouver-based PFS Studio, Toronto-based Dan Euser Waterarchitecture, and social event group NEWaukee, the Lakefront Gateway will bridge the busy Lincoln Memorial Boulevard. Its design, titled Urban Confluence, won out in a competition against teams lead by AECOM, James Corner Field Operations,  and the Office of James Burnett. The GRAEF design is intended to be a civic space and city icon, as well as a connection between downtown and the lakefront.

For those familiar with Milwaukee’s downtown, all of this development may come as a bit of a surprise, considering the extensive number of empty stores farther to the west of these new towers. But Mayor Tom Barrett believes investing in downtown is vital to the health of the city as a whole. “This is a once-in-a-generation chance to make an investment of this scale in downtown Milwaukee. It means more jobs, a stronger tax base, more community support, and more Northwestern Mutual employees giving back to all areas of the community,” he said.

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Renderings of Milwaukee Bucks Arena in Milwaukee unveiled

The Milwaukee Bucks have revealed an updated set of renderings for their new multipurpose arena located in Downtown Milwaukee. The NBA basketball team enlisted Populous to design the facility, which will play host to various sporting and entertainment events.

Working in collaboration with local firms Eppstein Uhen and HNTB, the design team drew inspiration from Milwaukee’s expansive architectural history, along with the region’s natural surroundings. The arena is an ode to the city’s industrial heritage—a handcrafted zinc arch swoops over the structure while its glass interior maintains a lightness and transparency.

Senior principal at Populous, Brad Clark said the designers were “inspired by the natural beauty of Wisconsin’s rivers, lakes, and forests,” and wanted the stadium to “seamlessly connect with surrounding neighborhoods.” The new renderings are the final product of the design process overseen by the city of Milwaukee and local public officials before construction on the arena begins in the summer.

The city hopes the 714,000-square-foot arena will revitalize Milwaukee’s downtown area, home to the Milwaukee City Hall and the Mackie Building. Both landmarks were built in the 1800s and combine elements of Italian and Flemish Renaissance that contribute to Milwaukee’s diverse architectural landscape. Populous aims to use the building as a platform to bring people together in what will become a new entertainment district.

But there are doubts as to whether the arena can blend into the city without drawing too much attention to itself. Its size alone makes a strong statement, while the roof shape has been criticized for being out of touch with the civic spaces around the city.

There are also questions about how effectively it will encourage transformation in Milwaukee’s downtown area when there are no big events to host. Populous has been behind the designs of the Yankee Stadium and the London Olympic Stadium with both landmarks becoming central attractions in their respective cities. And while it’s uncertain whether the Milwaukee arena will receive a similar reception, its large-scale production hints that it intends to make its presence in the city felt. Completion is expected 2018.

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Populous unveils a swooping new arena, downtown entertainment district for the Milwaukee Bucks

Fans of Milwaukee's premier basketball franchise got a glimpse Wednesday of ambitious plans to develop up to 30 acres of land around a “futuristic” new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. Conceptual renderings of the Milwaukee Bucks new arena, and the surrounding entertainment district, were release April 8. (Populous, HNTB, Eppstein Uhen, Milwaukee Bucks) For weeks the NBA team's imminent announcement was well-known locally, but its details only recently came into focus. Renderings of the new arena by a Populous-led design team that also includes HNTB and Eppstein Uhen Architects show a curved, asymmetrical roof sweeping over a glassy atrium with graphic detailing in the Bucks' signature green. But as eye-popping as the stadium itself are plans to develop up to 3 million square feet of office, entertainment, retail, residential, hotel, commercial space and parking structures over the next decade and a half. Along with plans to revamp the city's lakefront park and redevelop Northwestern Mutual's headquarters with a 32-story, Pelli Clarke Pelli-deigned tower, the Bucks' announcement constitutes a transformation for downtown Milwaukee. Conceptual renderings of the Milwaukee Bucks new arena, and the surrounding entertainment district, were release April 8. (Populous, HNTB, Eppstein Uhen, Milwaukee Bucks) The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel outlined what they called a "game-changing proposal":
The development would include a 700,000-square-foot, 17,000-seat arena; a 60,000-square-foot public plaza, anticipated as a sort of live entertainment space on what is largely a city-owned parking ramp at the corner of N. 4th St. and W. Highland Ave.; and arena parking across the street in the Park East area. Total amount of space just for that portion of the development: 1 million square feet.

Another surprise, sources familiar with the Bucks' plans said, is the Bucks' intention to build a state-of-the-art practice facility as soon as possible on Park East land just east of The Brewery development. The Bucks' practice facility is in leased space at the Archbishop Cousins Center in St. Francis; the team would have to buy out the lease.

The new stadium would occupy a site between Fourth Street and Sixth Street from State Street to McKinley Avenue, at the heart of a growing entertainment district north of the team's present home, the BMO Harris Bradley Center. That arena, which opened in 1988, would be demolished to make room for either a hotel, commercial space, or new offices. In a press release the Bucks' management said the new arena “will seamlessly link with active development on all sides, including Old World Third Street, Schlitz Park, The Brewery, the Milwaukee riverfront, Water Street and the Wisconsin Center.” But those plans float on unsettled budget negotiations that include up to a quarter of a billion dollars in public financing. Gov. Scott Walker initially promised $250 million in state bond money, but some members of the state legislature have balked at the amount. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett supports the plan, offering $25 million in city support, including $17 million in infrastructure improvements on and around the proposed new arena site.