Last Friday, the first tenants began to move into Ascent, the new apartment tower at 700 E. Kilbourn Ave.
Though the tower won’t be fully completed and a grand opening celebrated until September, co-developer New Land Enterprises held a gathering at the 25-story tower Wednesday to celebrate the fact that the building – constructed of cross-laminated timber atop a concrete base – was officially named the world’s tallest timber-construction building in the world.
That designation comes from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), which certifies building records for the Guinness Book of World Records. Ascent has edged out the previous record-holder, a building in Norway, by four feet.
Ascent measures 86.6 meters or 284 feet tall.
“This is proof that we as a company, we as a city, are capable of incredible, incredible achievements when we work together and we put our minds to it,” said New Land’s Tim Gokhman. “We have literally proven that here.”
Ground was broken on the tower in August 2020 and it was topped off last December.
Designed by Korb + Associates Architects, Ascent is merely dotted on the exterior with some wood finishing at the street level, but inside, the cross-laminated timber – which you can read much more about in this article – is visible in the 259 apartments.
There, the wood is exposed on ceilings, posts and cross-members. Building codes limit the amount of the timber that can be exposed inside the building.
New Land co-developed the building with Wiechmann Enterprises. It was engineered by Thornton Tomasetti and constructed by CD Smith and Catalyst Construction.
According to Gokhman, more than 100 of the one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments have been leased.
Today, there are 84 CLT buildings completed or under construction, according to CTBUH, which noted that while Ascent is a hybrid, it is still the tallest timber building of any kind.
“We really didn’t start out trying to set a record,” said Gokhman. We started at 19 and then it grew ... to 25. And then we might’ve made the first floor a little taller.
“It still feels surreal. It really isn’t the most important thing for us but I think I’ll be looking back at this day when we set a world record in Milwaukee ... and that’s a big deal.”
The building – which is the subject of the documentary film “Timber Skyscraper,” which screened at the Oriental on Wednesday evening – was not initially allowed by building codes, but after 14 three-hour fire tests at a UW lab in Madison, as well as coordination with, and inspection by, the Milwaukee Fire Department, it was given the go-ahead.
Now, Ascent has drawn curious visitors from around the country, as well as from places as far-flung as Austria and Taiwan, and Gokhman was invited to Dubai to talk about it.
Ascent, which was built with the help of a wood innovation grant, was New Land’s third attempt to build a tower on the site that most recently held a single-story building housing an Edwardo’s pizzeria.
The super strong cross-laminated timber – which is made by layering wood at perpendicular angles to create that strength – is a renewable resource. Its use in Ascent is the equivalent of taking 2,400 cars off the road for year, Gokhman said.
“The amount of timber in Ascent is replaced through natural growth – not re-planting, natural growth – in North American forests in about 23 minutes,” he added. “So it is a very renewable resource.”
“Ascent is a very exciting project.” said CTBUH Director of Research and Thought Leadership Daniel Safarik.
“It is helping advance the conversation about how we build more sustainable and healthy cities, especially in the face of mass urbanization and the increasing effects of climate change.”
While floors 15 and above are still under construction and work continues on the pool and ssauna area on the seventh floor, the apartments are completed on the lower floors. There are 14 floor plans and each is named for a type of tree: aspen, cherry walnut, etc.
Amenities include an indoor/outdoor fitness center, an indoor dog agility center, pet spa, electric car charging stations, bike storage and a top-floor community space with two terraces, two entertaining kitchens, an outdoor cinema, a staffed residents-only bar, fireplaces, a game room and semi-private work spaces.
We got a look at a 600-square-foot one-bedroom on the 13th floor with a view straight east out over the lakefront (you can see that in a reel on my Instagram account), and a three-bedroom with views to the south and west over Downtown on the 11th floor.
We also got to peek at the pool area, the lobby and the corridors. Here’s what we saw...
Inside a three-bedroom unit
Elevator lobby lighting
Open pool level window
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.