Apartment

The Goll Mansion apartment tower project gets a facelift

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Willow Partners has revived plans to build a 192-unit apartment tower behind the Goll Mansion at 1550 N. Prospect Ave. on the east side of Milwaukee. (courtesy of Solomon Cordwell Buenz)

Last update on October 21, 2022 at 1:56 p.m.

After pausing three years ago on plans to build an apartment tower behind the Goll Mansion at 1550 N. Prospect Ave. on the east side of Milwaukee, the Madison-based development company Willow Partners is set to restart the project, this time with plans they believe will improve the building and make the neighbors happier.

In its first iteration, the apartment tower was to be 28 stories, 301 feet tall, and about 83 feet wide.

A modified plan of the building, named 1550 Prospect, requires a slightly reduced height, a slimmer shape and a greater recoil. While the new building is still expected to have 192 units, it will be 25 stories tall, 277 feet tall and about 74 feet wide. The new building will also be farther from 1522 On the Lake, the 18-story condo tower immediately south of the Goll Mansion. Where the original design called for a distance of 51 feet between the two structures, the new one has them 60 feet apart.

The new building would also have six floors dedicated to providing 210 parking spaces, three above ground and three below. The building’s gross floor area would total 228,002 square feet, about 20,000 square feet less than in the 2017 plans.

The $69 million high-end apartment building will feature a mix of bachelor, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, as well as a few three-bedroom units.

Redesign

The idea for the redesign, said Chris Houden Jr., managing partner of Willow Partners, which submitted initial plans for the tower in 2016, was to try to “create better externalities” for the building in an effort to make it a better fit for the neighborhood and better project overall.

This new version is designed by Devon Patterson, director of a Chicago-based architectural firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB). Patterson was hired to revamp the design of the Goll Mansion tower following the death in 2019 of the project’s original architect, Tom Miller, principal of Kahler Slater in Milwaukee.

Patterson helped design the 7SEVENTY7 apartment tower at 777 N. Van Buren St. in downtown Milwaukee, and the Hines apartment tower under construction at 333 N. Water St. in the historic Third Ward.

While Willow could go ahead with the original city-approved Goll Mansion tower design – what Houden calls “Option A” – he thinks the new 1550 Prospect design – “Option B” – will be more appealing to neighbors and city officials.

“We will provide a more sustainable building, (which) will ultimately have a better fiscal impact on the city and will just be more conscientious,” Houden said. He added that the new design is still being tweaked to make it more accessible. For example, some balconies to the south have been recessed, while others to the north have been removed entirely.

Location

The revival of the project itself comes as the city has seen a boom in the development of high-end apartment towers. The 25-story, 259-unit Ascent at 700 E. Kilbourn Ave. welcomed its first residents in July. The 44-story, 322-unit Couture, currently under construction at 909 E. Michigan St., is expected to be partially occupied in fall 2023. And the 32-story Hines apartment tower is under construction.

Asked about competing for market share with these projects, Houden said that while potential market saturation is always a factor to consider when pursuing high-end apartment projects, he said that he was “very confident that the market has the depth to absorb (the) asset” and that he will ultimately be “very successful”.

What sets the 1550 Prospect project apart from other high-end apartment towers recently completed or under construction in Milwaukee is its East Side location on Prospect Avenue, Houden said.

“The walkability score (for the Goll Mansion site) is in the upper 90s. But ultimately, it’s being on that bluff. It offers stunning 360 degree views of the lake and the cityscape,” he said.

Goll’s mansion

The development plan still calls for moving the Goll Mansion itself 36 feet closer to the street, but there will no longer be an underground parking lot built under the house.

“We use masonry materials to tie the two projects together,” Patterson said, while using floor-to-ceiling glass for the apartments themselves, which will give the tower a more modern feel overall.

Named for its original owners – Milwaukee-area dry goods merchant Frederick Goll and his wife Eleanor – the Goll Mansion is a historic landmark, notable for its owners, architectural style, and architects. One of the first Jacobean/Elizabethan Revival style buildings constructed in Milwaukee, the house was designed by renowned local architects Ferry & Clas and built in 1898.

The mansion, which was purchased – as part of the entire site – by Willow Partners earlier this year for $2.87 million, is currently vacant, but Houden said the company will find use for the building that benefits the neighborhood and the city as a whole.

Patterson noted that moving the mansion closer to the street puts it more in line with other setbacks on Prospect Avenue.

“At the moment it’s pushed back, so it doesn’t really matter, but taking it out you’ll be able to see it more,” he added.

And after?

With the original project plan already approved in 2017, the city’s approval process for updated plans for 1550 Prospect may be faster this time around. That being said, amended plans will still need to be reviewed by the City Plan Commission, the Neighborhood Zoning and Development (ZND) Committee and the City Council.

If those approvals go smoothly, Houden said he hopes to launch the project in mid-to-late summer 2023.

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