The UW System Board of Regents on behalf of UW-Milwaukee has sold a former private residence, recently known as the UWM Alumni House, to a Milwaukee businessman, Andy Nunemaker, for $1.8 million.
Nunemaker intends to renovate and restore the property for use again as a private residence. UWM will retain an easement on the property to allow freshwater intake from Lake Michigan for cooling at the UWM campus. The property is also subject to a conservation easement held by the Wisconsin Historical Society.
The UWM Alumni House, located at 3230 E. Kenwood Blvd. in Milwaukee, was built in 1923 as the private residence of Myron T. and Gertrude MacLaren. The house is over 18,000 square feet and features extraordinary materials and craftsmanship, including its unusual exterior façade made of brown Plymouth stone.
The house was a private residence until 1949, when it was acquired by the Board of Regents of Normal Schools (also known as the Milwaukee State Teacher’s College) for use as a women’s residence hall. In 1956, the college was merged into the newly created UW-Milwaukee and the house became owned by UWM.
Over the following decades, in addition to use as a women’s residence hall, the property was used as a conference center, alumni center, event space and home to various UWM departments needing a small amount of conference space. In more recent decades, use for public events declined because the interior is not ADA accessible. The property also requires additional renovations for which funding has not been available.
In 2020, as part of a space optimization initiative, UWM determined that the Alumni House was no longer a cost-effective space for institutional and academic purposes and that selling the property would have a number of benefits for the public: reducing operations and maintenance costs for UWM, returning the property to the City of Milwaukee tax rolls, and allowing an extraordinary historic property to be renovated and restored to its maximum potential, including through the use of historic tax credits that were unavailable to the university.
UWM then sought proposals for sale or lease of the property and selected Nunemaker’s proposal, which offered the best combination of price, timely closing on the sale, likelihood for future preservation of the house and low negative impact on the surrounding residential neighborhood.
Nunemaker is a local businessman and philanthropist. He most recently spearheaded efforts to raise over $130 million to restore the historic Grand Warner Theatre on West Wisconsin Avenue to create a new performing home for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
Nunemaker intends to restore and use the property as his private residence. Renovation plans include a full restoration of the first floor living areas, with major renovations to the kitchen, basement and second floor living areas.
Formal garden, landscaping
Architectural historian H. Russell Zimmerman has been retained to design a garage situated to the west of the main house. Renowned gardener Ellen Irion has been commissioned to design the formal sunken gardens and a landscape plan for the property. Nunemaker has completed two full mansion restorations previously within the Historic Water Tower District, in which the Alumni House is located.
Proceeds from the sale will first be used to retire state debt on the property from a previous roof project. The remainder will be retained by UWM to address capital and IT infrastructure needs at UWM’s main campus.
“This is a prudent property sale that illustrates the way UW System universities are effectively assessing assets,” said UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson. “I appreciate the work of UW-Milwaukee to bring this real estate transaction to conclusion.”