More Development for Mitchell St.

Furniture store will become shops, housing

The eight-story former home of Kunzelmann-Esser Furniture Co., a longtime south side landmark, would be converted into apartments and street-level shops under plans disclosed Monday by a Madison developer.

Gorman & Co. has agreed to buy the 92,000-square-foot building at 710 W. Mitchell St., said Tom Capp, Gorman’s director of development. Gorman hopes to close on the purchase by November.

Capp said the building’s upper floors would be converted into 67 loft-style apartments. The street-level space would be used for retail space.

The building’s features include large windows with views of downtown and Lake Michigan, hardwood floors and a solid brick construction, Capp said.

“It’s a tremendous building,” Capp said. “Potentially, there’s a lot to work with.”

The Kunzelmann-Esser building has been largely vacant since the furniture store closed last summer.

If efforts to redevelop it are successful, it would be the latest in a series of recent projects that have brought new investment to the Mitchell St. neighborhood.

Those include Gorman’s plans to buy and remodel the 117-unit Golden Domes Apartments, a few blocks northeast of the Kunzelmann-Esser building at 1630 S. 6th St. The $8.2 million project will create larger units with new features at the Golden Domes, which was built in 1973 and is in deteriorating condition.

Capp said Monday the Golden Domes remodeling is scheduled to begin by Oct. 1, with the first units available by February. When construction is completed, the current mix of 73 one-bedroom units and 44 two-bedroom units will be replaced by 30 one-bedroom units, 56 two-bedroom units, 11 three-bedroom units and nine efficiencies.

Also, work is to begin within a few weeks on a $2.2 million retail and office development on a vacant lot at 627 W. Mitchell St. The 25,500-square-foot building will have an 8,800-square-foot Family Dollar store as its street-level retail tenant.

“The neighborhood is prime for development,” said Judi Keller, executive director of the Greater Mitchell Street Association. An affiliate of the association, the Mitchell Street Development Opportunities Corp., is developing the Family Dollar building.

The Kunzelmann-Esser building, like the Golden Domes project, will seek affordable housing tax credits, Gorman said.

The state and federal governments award affordable housing tax credits to developers, who can then sell the credits to investors to raise equity financing. In return, the developers agree to rent the apartments at below-market rates.

The project also will seek tax credits granted to developers for preserving historic buildings. The Kunzelmann-Esser building dates back to around 1900.

“The key question is, can we make it work financially,” Capp said. “There are not going to be high rents down there.”

The Kunzelmann-Esser building is owned by an investors group identified in city assessment records as RDDD LLC. The group’s registered agent is identified as Robert Felker, who is president of Colder’s Furniture; he couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Kunzelmann-Esser building would be Gorman’s fourth major apartment project in Milwaukee.

The company is converting a 160,000-square-foot warehouse at 133 W. Oregon St., in the Walker’s Point neighborhood, into 98 loft apartments, known as the Historic Fifth Ward Lofts. Those units will be available starting in August.

Gorman also built the 180-unit Arbor Ridge Apartments, 7960 N. 107th St., in 1999.