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Grand Avenue apartments to feature historic, upscale touches as redevelopment plans surge

Updated: Dec 8, 2017

Milwaukee Journal Sentinal [ Sept. 7, 2017]

The 50 apartments coming to downtown Milwaukee's Grand Avenue mall will feature upscale touches in the mall's Plankinton Arcade, including private entrances that pay homage to restored historic storefronts.

Known as Plankinton Clover, the apartments will be available in spring 2018, said mall co-owner Tony Janowiec. They will range from studios to three-bedroom units, he said.

Plankinton Clover is a major part of the overall $65 million Grand Avenue redevelopment plan, which the new owners unveiled last year. The Grand Avenue has seen other recent projects, including a law firm that moved to the historic Matthews Building.

The second-floor apartments will play off their location in the historic Plankinton Arcade, Janowiec said. They will include floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking W. Wisconsin Ave., N. Plankinton Ave. and N. 2nd St.

Most of the apartments will have entrances from common corridors that connect to the second-floor atrium, Janowiec said.

That atrium, now lined with mainly vacant retail space, will continue be open to the public. Fifteen apartments will have their own separate entrances from the atrium, Janowiec said. Those units will have private verandas, he said, with the separate entrances tied to restored historic storefronts facing the atrium.

Those larger apartments could serve as live-work units, Janowiec said.

Plankinton Clover's apartments will range from 500 to 1,600 square feet. Rents haven't yet been determined, but will reflect the downtown market, he said.

With the large windows, the apartments will have a bright, open atmosphere, Janowiec said.

The atrium, which ties to skywalks that connect Grand Avenue to other buildings, will "become a public street coming into the neighborhood," he said.

Plankinton Clover's amenities will include a dog grooming area, fitness center, bicycle storage and a business center.

Work began in August to convert most of the arcade's second floor to apartments.

Three second-floor commercial spaces will be maintained, Janowiec said.

Two will be filled by Body in Balance Pilates Studio and 9Round Fitness, which are now in temporary spaces in the Grand Avenue's newer building, he said. Those will total around 2,000 to 3,000 square feet.

Meanwhile, workers are renovating around 13,000 square feet on the ground floor of the Plankinton Arcade for a dialysis clinic operated by Fresenius Medical Care. Its entrance will be on N. 2nd St.

The arcade includes T.J. Maxx on the ground floor, with around 14,000 to 20,000 square feet of vacant space between that store and the planned clinic. Janowiec and his partners still hope to attract an urban supermarket to that space.

Elsewhere in the Grand Avenue, Watton Law Group in August moved into 10,000 square feet on the fifth floor of the Matthews Building, 301 W. Wisconsin Ave.

However, another possible office tenant, a children's organization that Janowiec declined to name, didn't proceed with plans to lease space at the Matthews Building.

Janowiec in April said his prospective office tenants were concerned about plans for a strip club nearby at 730 N. Old World Third St.

The Common Council later approved the club's license. But the inability to land the children's organization at the Grand Avenue was unrelated to that issue, Janowiec said.

Investment groups led by Janowiec, president of Interstate Parking Co., in December 2015 bought the Grand Avenue and its parking structure for $24.6 million.

In April 2016, they unveiled their redevelopment plans. They include converting the upper floors of the Grand Avenue's newer building, west of N. 2nd St., into offices, with new stores and restaurants on the street level.

Their initial focus was on the Matthews Building, which they bought separately in December 2016, and the Plankinton Arcade, Janowiec said. That's because the owners obtained state and federal historic preservation tax credits to help finance those renovations.

Now, their focus is on finding new tenants for the newer building, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave.

The plans for the mall's newer building include a historic exhibit on Milwaukee's brewing industry — complete with a tavern — which the Milwaukee County Historical Society would operate.



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