New Land Enterprises is adding height to its timber-framed Ascent tower in Milwaukee to create more parking and apartments, and expects it could be the second-tallest wood-framed building in the world.
The Milwaukee developer is using mass timber columns and beams instead of concrete or steel for the 23-story structure of the East Kilbourn Avenue building. It is a new approach to the Milwaukee market, but mass timber is gaining momentum globally as a more sustainable building material.
It could break ground in late spring 2020, for completion in early 2022, said Tim Gokhman, director of Milwaukee-based New Land.
Expected to be up to 250 feet tall, the Ascent could become North America’s tallest mass timber building, and is drawing international attention. Earlier this month, New Land hosted a delegation of a dozen Taiwanese government, academic and architectural representatives, Gokhman said. The group was visiting the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison and asked to hear more about the Ascent, Gokhman said, so they made a detour to Milwaukee.
“The building will have the effect of people traveling internationally just to see it, which is exciting,” Gokhman said.
Under current designs, the building could rank second on Earth to the mixed-use Mjøstårnet in Norway, a mass timber building that is about 30 feet taller than Ascent would be. A recent design change adds a few floors to its original 238-foot height, edging it past the HAUT tower under construction in Amsterdam.
The change to Ascent adds one floor of parking and a floor of apartments, Gokhman said.
“It’s not a driver, setting a record is really, really the last thing on the list of priorities,” Gokhman said. “This is about finding the right ratios, aesthetics and economics.”
New Land changed the building’s unit count from 201 to 231. The new mix has fewer two-bedroom apartments and more one-bedroom units, which is a response to market.
Milwaukee’s Plan Commission on Sept. 9 will review the proposed design changes.
Gokhman said New Land has started raising equity commitments from investors to finance the project.
New Land also is rounding out its contractor team. Joining general contractor Catalyst Construction, Milwaukee, is Swinerton, a national builder with a Portland division specializing in mass timber, Gokhman said. Swinerton is helping to vet potential timber beam and column suppliers from Canada and Europe, he said.
Korb & Associates Architects, Milwaukee, is the architect.

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