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30 Million Apartment Project Given First City Approval

4/23/2014 - A six-story, 132-unit apartment building planned for Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward has received its first city approval.

Mandel Group Inc. wants to build the $30 million development, called Domus, on what's now a riverfront parking lot at 401 E. Erie St. That's next to Mandel's Marine Terminal Lofts condo building.

The firm hopes to begin construction this summer, with completion by the fall of 2015, said Robert Monnat, Mandel Group's chief operating officer.

The Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board on Wednesday approved the plan.

Domus, the Latin word for "home," will need other city approvals, including permission from the Board of Zoning Appeals for enclosed parking spaces on the building's street level.

The building's first, second, third and fourth floors would mainly have studios and one-bedroom units, with two- and three-bedroom apartments on the top two floors, Monnat told review board members. The idea is to create a mix of younger residents for the smaller units, and "empty nesters" for the larger, pricier units.

The street level would include a small cafe or coffee shop, and a 7,000-square-foot health club, which would overlook a public terrace facing Erie St., Monnat said. He said the health club would likely include a bike rental service, as well as kayak rentals.

Domus also would have 182 parking spaces in the basement and first floor. He said that number is based in part on a declining demand for apartment building parking spaces in downtown Milwaukee, with younger residents relying more on walking, biking and mass transit.

The building's RiverWalk would include planters with native Wisconsin tall grass serving as a protective barrier facing the river, said architect Jim Shields, design principal at HGA Architects. The idea, he said, is a nod to the marsh area that lined the Milwaukee River before the city was founded in the 19th century.

Other design touches include recessed balconies to help Domus better blend with nearby smaller buildings, Shields said.

The apartment proposal replaces Mandel's 2006 plan to build a 61-unit condo development on the site. That proposal was dropped after the housing bubble burst.
-Tom Daykin


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