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Construction starts on $80 million mass timber apartment tower in Milwaukee

A rendering showing plans for the 21-story Ascent tower in downtown Milwaukee — which promises to be the largest "mass timber" building in North America when completed. (Rendering courtesy of Korb + Associates Architects)

A rendering showing plans for the 21-story Ascent tower in downtown Milwaukee — which promises to be the largest “mass timber” building in North America when completed. (Rendering courtesy of Korb + Associates Architects)

By Tom Daykin
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Construction has started on an unusual downtown Milwaukee apartment tower.

The $80 million project, known as Ascent, is being developed at 700 E. Kilbourn Ave. by New Land Enterprises LLP and Wiechmann Enterprises.

Foundation work has started, New Land announced Monday. The building is scheduled for completion in summer of 2022.

The 25-story, 259-unit high-rise is being put using a technique known as mass timber or cross-laminated timber.

This uses layers of wood pressed together to form columns, beams and other building-frame components.

Apartments, offices and other buildings made from timber result in the release of less carbon than conventional construction. They also can provide a quite attractive setting, featuring exposed wood interiors.

At 284 feet, Ascent is to be the tallest mass-timber structure in the world, according to New Land. The tallest such building now is the 280-foot-tall Mjøstårnet tower, which opened in Norway in 2019. A mass-timber high-rise is now in the works for Sydney, Australia, and is planned to stand at 590 feet, according to Popular Mechanics.

Ascent has attracted lenders and investors despite economic difficulties tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Tim Gokhman, managing director of New Land Enterprises.

Gokhman said the developers are proceeding to close the financing package.

The general contractor on the Ascent project is a joint venture formed by C.D. Smith Inc. and Catalyst Construction.

Korb + Associates is the architect, and a company called Swinerton, of San Francisco, is serving as mass-timber consultant. Thornton Tomasetti is providing structural engineering services.

Monthly rents at Ascent start at $1,610 for a one-bedroom unit. Milwaukee’s first mass timber building, the 60-unit Timber Lofts apartments, opened this summer at 300 W. Florida St. in Walker’s Point.

Tom Daykin can be emailed at tdaykin@jrn.com and followed on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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