|By Tom Daykin, Milwaukee Journal
SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sept. 02, 2011--A group of downtown buildings have been sold to the developer of a planned 200-room Marriott Hotel, and work is to begin later this year on demolishing some of the structures, it was announced Thursday.
Jackson Street Management LLC paid an undisclosed price for the buildings near the southwest corner of E. Wisconsin Ave. and N. Milwaukee St. The properties were sold by an investment group operated by developer Michael Levine, and a separate group led by investor Craig Stoehr.
Jackson Street, led by Ed Carow and Mark Flaherty, plans to develop a nine-story Marriott. It will take about two years for the project to be completed.
"This is another significant step forward," Carow said in a statement.
The $54 million hotel will be a combination of new construction and the renovated portions of some of the historic buildings. The project will preserve all of the facades of the 19th century buildings along Wisconsin Ave.
All of the buildings along Milwaukee St. will be torn down. The developers say those buildings are in such poor condition that preserving their facades isn't possible.
The city Historic Preservation Commission approved Jackson Street's proposal in January but added a condition that required the hotel to include a 15-foot setback from Milwaukee St.
The preservation commission wanted the setback so the hotel would better blend in with two adjacent historic structures: the McGeoch Building, owned by architect David Uihlein at the corner of Milwaukee and Michigan streets, and the Johnson Bank building at Milwaukee St. and Wisconsin Ave.
Carow and Flaherty said the setback would have required them to add substantial costs to the project. They appealed that condition to the Common Council, which approved the Marriott plans without the setback.
The main tenant at the Marriott site, Downtown Books, is moving to two locations: 624 N. Broadway and 1134 S. 1st St. Owner Keith Pajot said the Broadway store is expected to open by October, with the other store opening later this year.
Plans to open a store at 308 E. Wisconsin Ave. by mid-August were dropped because the building owner failed to renovate the space in time to accommodate Downtown Books, Pajot said. He's now considering other Wisconsin Ave. locations.
On the building site sale, Scott Revolinski, of RFP Commercial Inc., was the broker, and financing was provided through FirstPathway Partners, a Milwaukee firm that helps secure financing from foreign nationals under the federal government's EB-5 program.
EB-5 allows a foreign citizen to obtain a visa by investing at least $1 million, or at least $500,000 in rural areas and areas with high unemployment, with that investment creating at least 10 U.S. jobs. That two-year visa can then be converted into a "green card," which provides permanent U.S. residency privileges to the investor, the investor's spouse and children.
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