July 3, 2020

The Electric Apartments Rise » Urban Milwaukee

The Electric Apartments Rise » Urban Milwaukee


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New apartment building in the Historic Third Ward. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A new apartment building has begun to rise in the Historic Third Ward following the completion of an unusual structure in the building’s base.

Joseph Property Development is developing a 60-unit building at the southwest corner of N. Jefferson St. and E. St. Paul Ave. The site was most recently a surface parking lot.

The Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board first approved the project in 2018, but Joseph had to wait for over a year as a unique feature was built in the center of the site – an electrical substation for We Energies.

Juneau Substation, as the utility refers to the project, is a 30-foot-tall, concrete-encased structure located in the base of the building. Contractor CG Schmidt spent over a year constructing the substructure.

The apartment building, designed by RINKA, will wrap the concrete-encased station with a 76-space parking garage and a double-height commercial storefront. Four floors of apartments will rise above the concrete base. The full building will rise 85 feet above ground level.

Joseph is leading the general contracting for the surrounding apartment building. A concrete structure from Spancrete is being erected currently.

The housing-substation combination isn’t unheard of on a national scale. Robert Joseph told the Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board in April 2018 that he knew of 29 of them, largely in places where real estate is more expensive like Chicago and San Francisco.

The partnership between Rinka and Joseph is the third for the two firms. The first was a six-story apartment building on N. Prospect Ave. known as The Contour. And just a few blocks west of the substation site, the developer converted a warehouse at 322 N. Broadway into offices with first-floor retail. Joseph has completed a number of Third Ward projects.

The partners are now exploring a development at the southeast corner of S. 1st St. and W. Pittsburgh Ave.

Joseph is also redeveloping a warehouse in Walker’s Point. Built in 1873 and billed, likely with a fair amount of hyperbole, as the largest hardware store in the world, the building has the hull of a wrecked ship underneath it.

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