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LIVE, WORK, PLAY

Pritzlaff adds apartments to offices, events space

TOM DAYKIN | MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL

Ken Breunig is happy that his $32 million redevelopment of downtown Milwaukee’s former Pritzlaff Hardware Co. buildings is finally coming to a close.

Actually, maybe relieved is the more appropriate word.

“This thing has kind of dragged on,” Breunig said, while showing the last phase: the conversion of much of the Pritzlaff complex into 99 high-end apartments.

The first apartments opened Labor Day weekend, with more opening in stages throughout the next three to four months. Those apartments are joining offices, events space and other commercial uses at the Pritzlaff buildings, which are south of W. St. Paul Ave. and west of N. Plankinton Ave.

The result is the combination of live, work and play — often viewed as the ideal formula for attracting activity to mixed-use developments throughout the day and night.

“It’s just a great project,” said Jim Plaisted, executive director of the Historic Third Ward Association. Breunig’s development is within the Historic Third Ward Business Improvement District, with a small part of the district’s western border extending just across the Milwaukee River to N. 2nd St., south of W. Clybourn St.

The Pritzlaff Lofts are being developed on floors three through seven at the historic complex, a group of six connected buildings constructed from 1875 through 1919.

About 80 units have two bedrooms, with the rest split between one-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments. The monthly rents range from around $1,160 to $2,500, with the average rent at around $2,000, Breunig said.

The apartments have features found in other renovated downtown historic buildings, including high ceilings, big windows, exposed brick walls and timber columns.

The renovations were partly financed with state and federal historic preservation tax credits, which require developers to follow strict standards on such projects.

Pritzlaff Lofts also provides the expected modern features: granite counter tops, stainless steel kitchen appliances and, for some units, balconies. The views include the skyline of downtown, the Historic Third Ward and Walker’s Point.

Breunig is developing a four-deck parking structure, with 300 spaces, next to the Pritzlaff buildings. It will provide

See PRITZLAFF, Page 2D

Ken Breunig’s slow redevelopment of the former Pritzlaff Hardware Co. buildings is nearly complete. The last phase is the addition of 99 upscale apartments at the downtown site. See more photos and a video at jsonline.com/business.

TOM DAYKIN / MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL

The interior decor at Pritzlaff Lofts includes part of an old delivery chute used by the former Pritzlaff Hardware Co. That business occupied the buildings from the late 19th century until the 1950s.


Pritzlaff

Unusual touches

spaces for residents and office workers when it’s completed in November.

Finally, there are some unusual touches. In one apartment hallway, Breunig added a pool table for residents to use. The extra space was available because of the layout of buildings that were originally constructed for Pritzlaff Hardware. The company was once among the nation’s biggest hardware wholesalers. The interior decor includes part of an old chute used to deliver items from the upper floors to the street level, and a scale used to weigh bulk materials sold by Pritzlaff. The location should help draw apartment residents, Breunig said. The site is within walking distance of downtown employers, as well as attractions that include the RiverWalk, Milwaukee Public Market and dozens of restaurants, stores and taverns. It’s also a transportation hub. The apartments are three blocks east of the Milwaukee Intermodal Station and just south of I-794 and the future downtown streetcar’s St. Paul Ave. route. Breunig bought the buildings, totaling 260,000 square feet, in 2005 for $3 million. He initially planned to develop stores and restaurants on the ground floor, with apartments on the upper floors. But after the long-vacant buildings were cleaned up, the 2008 recession hit. Also, Breunig was hoping to obtain federal tax credits designed to help finance commercial development in neighborhoods considered economically distressed.

But the census tract that includes the Pritzlaff site by 2010 had prospered with redeveloped housing, and no longer qualified as distressed.

Meanwhile, Breunig began getting inquiries about using the buildings for fundraisers and other events. That led to the 2011 opening of Pritzlaff Events, which uses most of the first floor. Most of the second floor is used for offices.

The largest tenant is the 31,500-square-foot Ward4 Milwaukee, which since 2015 has provided shared space for business startups.

Ward4 includes Gener8tor, which invests in startups such as algorithm- driven wine subscription service Bright Cellars Inc.

Live/work/play

Along with the apartments and parking structure, Breunig is working on another Pritzlaff project: attracting a restaurant to what was a 3,000square-foot street-level office used by Gravity Marketing LLC. Gravity just moved to its new home in Walker’s Point, at 720-722 S. 5th St. The Pritzlaff Lofts will eventually have about 200 residents, Breunig said, joining around 160 people who work at Ward4 and other offices. That day and night population should help draw a restaurant, he said, as well as a bar or coffee shop. That combination of apartments, offices, event space and a restaurant follows the live/ work/play formula for mixed-use developments.

The idea is to create different uses that draw people to a site during all times of the day and night. In Milwaukee, live/ work/play has been embraced by downtown’s backers as a key strategy to redevelop such areas as W. Wisconsin Ave. That includes the Grand Avenue mall. Its new owners in August began building 50 apartments in the mall’s Plankinton Arcade, and plan to create offices and new street-level commercial uses in the mall’s newer portion. Coincidentally, Breunig’s other properties include the 42-unit Plankinton Loft Apartments, located in converted office space above the Plankinton Arcade.

Meanwhile, the Pritzlaff’s long journey, and the changes to its development plans, reflect Breunig’s pragmatism.

“You can’t force it,” said Breunig, who also operates nine Milwaukee- area EZ Self Storage centers. “If it doesn’t work, you just keep working on it until it does work,” Breunig said.

Tom Daykin can be reached at tdaykin@jrn.com.

A parking structure under construction near the Pritzlaff buildings will provide spaces for apartment residents and office workers when it’s completed in November.

TOM DAYKIN / MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL

The wide hallways at Pritzlaff Lofts are a legacy from its original use by Pritzlaff Hardware Co. This corridor is large enough to accommodate a pool table for residents.

The interior decor at Pritzlaff Lofts includes an old scale used to weight bulk items sold by Pritzlaff Hardware Co. That business occupied the buildings until the 1950s.

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