By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 15, 2022 at 12:25 PM

There’s no two ways about it: walking through the new Journal Commons apartments built in the 1924 Milwaukee Journal building, 333 W. State St., is pretty weird and disorienting for someone who worked inside for five years.

The ribbon was officially cut on the 141-apartment, more than $35 million development Tuesday morning and I was there to provide you this first look.

Two residents moved in yesterday and more will arrive beginning Wednesday.

But I had also stopped over for an informal, no-photos-please tour a month ago and the interior had changed so much that it was nearly impossible for me to recall what had occupied specific places back in the newspaper days when I worked at the Sentinel.

It was completely different back in 2020 when I visited for this story and renovations hadn’t really begun inside yet.

While many formerly big open spaces now have walls for corridors, bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms, some key elements have survived and been refreshed, most notably the murals tracing the history of communications painted inside the former wood-paneled offices on the fourth floor.

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The fourth floor murals
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The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Some new features include the “Sentinel Lounge,” an amenity space named for the paper that the Journal bought from the Hearst Corporation in 1962, and a co-working space in the former Journal lobby.

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The latter space still has its wood paneling, marble floors and built-in phone booths, two of which you can still step into.

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Phone booths
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The rooftop Sentinel Lounge, which boasts a warming fireplace, also has an outdoor deck with a great view over the Milwaukee River and the Downtown skyline.

The former press room on the lower level is still awaiting renovation, as is part of the former lobby. The plan is to rent those as commercial/retail space.

The Journal’s 1962 addition is now Westown Green, offering 195 affordable housing units to students attending MATC and MSOE – which are 99 percent leased – and the former Sentinel building to the south is home to Seeds of Health’s charter Tenor High School program, which previously occupied this Walker's Point building.

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Journal Commons has a mix of  studio, junior one-bedroom (between a studio and standard one-bedroom in size) and one-bedroom apartments and those sizes, says developer Josh Jeffers, are meant to attract young professionals who want to be in the thick of things Downtown.

Rents on the market-rate apartments range from $1,195 to $1,995.

Just across the street is Turner Hall and the King Drive bar district and the Deer District and the UWM Panther Arena and the expansion of the Wisconsin Center. Within a short walk are the Miller High Life Theater, the Brewery District and the 3rd Street Market Hall.

Apartments in Journal Commons offers views of a number of those nearby attractions and amenities.

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Original wood floors.
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The also have open kitchens, high ceilings, stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops and in-apartment washers and dryers.

Tenants also have access to the first co-working space, the sixth-floor Sentinel Lounge, plus a fitness studio, pet spa, secure entry, bike storage, package rooms, on-site maintenance staff and heated indoor parking.

One of the most attractive and historic amenities is the fourth floor Editor’s Suite, with its original wood paneling and vintage murals mentioned above.

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Editor's suite
The Editor's Suite
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In here are some old Journal ledgers, too, that are fascinating, as well as a yellowed copy of a July 1993 Sentinel sports section (no Tanzilo bylines in that one, sadly).

Some of the upper floors retain their original wood floors meant to take the wear and tear of newspaper production. The stairwells still boast their decorating railings.

Some of the apartments are especially cool.

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Apartment in the original WTMJ radio space.
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Like the northwest corner space on the second floor which, in addition to boasting panoramic views of the Deer District, allows someone to live in the first home of WTMJ radio, before it moved up to Radio City on Capitol Drive.

There’s a nice little studio apartment above the State Street entrance that has a super-wow arched window filling nearly an entire wall.

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“It’s an exciting day to officially debut the Journal Commons property to the community,” said Jeffers, founder and CEO of J. Jeffers & Co., on the occasion of the ribbon cutting.

“This building and its rich history are part of the fabric of Milwaukee. We worked hard to preserve that history and are so proud to be part of its next chapter.”

The project was completed with the collaboration of CG Schmidt, Brothers Interiors, EUA, Quorum Architects and 360 Design.

The well-attended ribbon cutting ceremony included comments by Mayor Cavalier Johnson.

“Milwaukee is constantly reinventing itself, and Journal Commons is a great example of that
Reinvention,” the mayor said.

“In the Deer District, in other parts of Downtown and in neighborhoods all across Milwaukee, we continue to see significant development. I applaud all involved in bringing Journal Commons to this final stage.”

Here are some photos from inside Journal Commons:

Apartment

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Co-working space

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Editor's Suite ledger

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Lobby seating

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Sentinel Lounge and patio

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Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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.