Build-Out…And Up

For years, the intersection of Brady and Water streets was a development dead zone. Now, that’s changing. Quickly.


Rendering courtesy of HGA Architects.


Most anyone in Milwaukee can tell you where to find Brady and Water streets. At the intersection of these two well-traveled thoroughfares, however, you didn’t find much. Until recently, that is.

Phillip Aiello, senior development manager for the Mandel Group, refers to this area as a “doughnut hole.” It’s surrounded by many of the city’s more recognizable areas – the Milwaukee River, Schlitz Park, Lakefront Brewery, and nightlife destinations along Water and Brady streets. It’s also in fairly close proximity to Cathedral Square and Downtown’s central business district. Now, these disparate parts of Milwaukee’s fabric are being stitched together, one development at a time.

With the North End (1551 N. Water St.), Mandel Group has led the charge to fill that “doughnut hole.” When it’s completed, Mandel’s residential development will have roughly 640 total apartments, arriving in four phases. The first two phases were completed in 2013. Phase 3 broke ground this fall after Mandel secured $53 million in financing. And 4 is on its way in 2015. Also on the way: a brand-new 29,000-square-foot Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery store – a national chain making its first foray into Milwaukee that will be located on the ground floor.

The property where the North End is now located was purchased out of bankruptcy by the Mandel Group in 2001. Aiello says what drew the developers to the site is that “it was the largest lineal feet of riverfront available in the Downtown area.” The reason the area was so underdeveloped, he says, was a confluence of other forces – the two biggest being the slow pace of development in the Park East and the effects of the Great Recession. Now, “with the apartment market boom and with the demographics being so strong for apartment development, that’s why you’re seeing some of these properties being developed,” Aiello says.

The North End is now just one of many apartment developments popping up near this intersection. Wangard Inc. is getting ready to break ground on a complex called Brady and Water, which Stewart Wangard says is his “favorite project to work on.” This development looks to embrace its proximity to the Milwaukee River, giving people access to the natural landmark with pedestrian walkways along the river. In addition, plans call for retail and restaurant space.

Part of why Wangard was so drawn to this site is because of its proximity to the well-traveled transportation corridors that surround it, he says. In addition to Brady and Water streets, it’s also close to the Marsupial Bridge, the pedestrian and bike path added to the Holton Street Viaduct, and 2013’s addition to the bridge, the Trestle Stair, which connects it to Commerce Street. Wangard has also built two other residential buildings in this area in recent years: the Avenir at 1477 N. Jefferson St., and 1910 on Water at the corner of Water and Astor streets.

Initially, construction on the Brady and Water development was set to begin in 2014, but the timetable has been pushed back and split into two phases to make way for a taller, mid-rise building that will be roughly 10 stories, says Wangard.

“As we’ve been studying the area, we realized that any development that’s over four stories in height will have stunning views of the new Northwestern Mutual tower,” he says.

Plans for the Rhythm, a seven-story apartment building, were announced in September. This building will soon take the place of a now-defunct tavern, the Curve, on the east side of Water Street.

The former Gallun tannery site – another piece of the doughnut hole – was purchased earlier this year by Atlanta-based Atlantic Realty Partners. This site is farther north on Water Street along the river, across the street from where Red Lion Pub will soon replace Brocach Irish Pub & Restaurant. Some are saying this purchase could pave the way for another North End-type development.

With all of this happening inside of a 10-year window, a portion of the city could be completely changed. The only parts still unchanged are the roads to get there.

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Dan Shafer was the digital editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Dan joined the magazine as assistant editor in 2014 and wrote the November 2014 cover story, "Downtown Horizons." He's worked as a reporter at BizTimes Milwaukee and an editor at ThirdCoast Digest. Contact him at daniel.shafer@milwaukeemag.com. He's on Twitter @danshaferMKE.