Architect: HGA Architects and Engineers
Owner: Mandel Group
Contractor: CD Smith
A long, linear six-story wood-framed building curves slightly on the narrow block-long site, recording the slight bend in the Milwaukee River. The bend locks the building into its unique site and helps to make a distinctive building form. The building, raised on a slight plinth of cast in place concrete, takes the form of a contemporary infill-frame, recalling several nearby waterfront warehouses.
White metal clad frame elements with large glass infill panels define the large units on the fifth and sixth floors, while polished white limestone masonry units define the frame of the smaller units on the second, third and fourth floors. The white metal frame elements of the top two floors slide down into large openings created by the masonry frames, unifying the facades and creating an engaging rhythm. Infill panels of glass and warm wood-tone panels add richness and color to the facades. On the building’s city side, recessed balconies produce tall reveals that articulate the long façade into a series of pavilions in scale with nearby historic buildings.
Along the vast open space of the river, the building retains its smooth, long curving shape, with balconies cantilevered and joined together with continuous steel channels to emphasize the long curving shape. At the south end, an arcade helps to define the building entry and the major retail space.
Inside, the entry lobby forms a transparent passage from street to Riverwalk, allowing entry from the river as well as the street. A club space for residents adjacent to the lobby can be entirely opened to the Riverwalk. Upstairs, all elevator lobbies have a direct view of the river, leading to dramatic curved corridors which record the shape of the building. Unit entries feature wood paneled recesses, with the unit interiors receiving clean contemporary finishes with warm wood-toned floors.
The parking, primarily housed in a plinth of cast in place concrete reaching only three feet above the street, fills the entirety of the property. Pedestrians rise to the first floor by means of a refined Ipe wood stair and a ramp attached to the plinth. The concrete plinth is punctuated by a series of translucent glass portholes that admit light to the garage from both the street and the river.
Additional parking was designed within the first-floor footprint, concealed from the street with a series of large translucent windows printed with historic photos and maps of the immediate district, curated by the architect. Two retail spaces occupy the two street corners of the building, adding street-edge life and activity. Five first floor “liner” apartment units conceal the first-floor parking from the river, units which have their own river-front terraces and entries.
Along the river, a new public Riverwalk has been placed on top of the concrete garage plinth as a green roof terrace. Recalling a time when the Milwaukee River Estuary was lined with acres of tall native grasses, the new Riverwalk features raised cast concrete planters filled with drifts of tall grasses rather than the typical metal railing. Pedestrians experience the river through a mass of gently moving tall grasses. The planters provide private court terraces for the first floor liner units. All walking surfaces are refined decking boards of Ipe wood.
Photos: John Magnoski Photography