Mass timber apartments in downtown Milwaukee grows to 32 floors, 344 units

A developer is adding floors and apartments to make the project buildable under today's high interest rates and construction costs.

Mass timber apartments in downtown Milwaukee grows to 32 floors, 344 units

The height of a mass timber apartment complex planned for downtown Milwaukee along the Milwaukee River is increasing. The latest design stands 32 stories high with 344 apartments.

The Neutral Project, a Madison-based developer, unveiled a new concept and renderings for the property located at North Edison Street and East State Street this week. Neutral Project, which originally proposed a 15-story building in 2021, has added floors and apartments to the project in recent months in order to make it buildable with today's high construction costs and interest rates.

Nate Helbach, managing director of the project, said that the team had been testing various designs to find a concept in which the construction costs are justified by the income generated by the number of apartments.

Helbach stated that after four months of iterations they finally found a sweet spot where the project could be realized.

Once completed, the building will be 362 feet high. Ascent, a 284-foot tall mass timber building completed in summer of 2022, is the world's highest mass timber structure. Under construction in Sydney is the new 599-foot-tall, 42-story Atlassian central tower, which will set a new world record.

Helbach stated that the project could begin next year, pending approval from the city. Neutral Project cleared the site of the former Rojahn and Malaney flower wholesale building. This summer, Neutral Project could start driving test piles to lay the foundation.

Helbach stated that 'we're still seeing a lot interest in capital from local and institutional investors'. 'I'm very bullish on Milwaukee.'

Neutral Projects' building will have a base of concrete up to the 7th floor. The retail space on the first floor is approximately 7,100 square foot, with 306 parking spaces above.

Residents would have access to amenities on the seventh floor.

Helbach stated that the plan was to create a cool spa concept, with an indoor/outdoor pool, hot-tubs, saunas and other amenities. On that floor, we have a coworking area, library, demonstration kitchen, movie room and fitness center. We also have outdoor gardens, outdoor seating, and a dog-run area.

The top floor of the building would be equipped with more amenities such as a sportsbar and an outdoor deck.

Apartments would begin on the 8th floor. The two top floors would contain 18 penthouses.

Apartment floors will have vertical columns and mass timber decks. These manufactured wood elements will be visible in the apartments.

Helbach stated that in a new approach to construction, horizontal structural beams would be made of poured concrete and not mass wood.

Concrete beams are half or smaller in size than mass timber. This allows each floor to be shorter, and overall the building can be built without compromising the height of the interior ceilings in the apartments.

Helbach explained that the structure allows for a smaller building, saving on costs such as facades, columns, and a variety of other things.

Helbach stated that the beams would be wrapped with mass wood to mimic ceilings and columns and be visible inside the apartments.

Smith Construction Inc., a Milwaukee-based general contractor, is responsible for the construction.