Bisecting a building

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 am

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Kenilworth building is being chopped in half. The 500,000-square-foot, five-story building at 1925 E. Kenilworth Place on Milwaukee’s east side is being reconstructed as two separate buildings. The project, which will cost $68 million, is expected to be completed by August 2006. Once the project is complete, the eastern red brick building will house UWM’s Peck School of the Arts.
Two new floors are being added to the metal-sided western building, making it seven stories tall. The building will have five floors of apartments for graduate students, accommodating up to 370 people.
The framework for those new floors is now in place, and work will begin in the next several weeks to enclose them. Basic infrastructure, including electric, data and utility lines, have already been installed.
Plans call for 26,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor of the two buildings, with parking on the second floor of each, and additional parking on the first floor of the west building.
A green pedestrian walkway will split the two buildings, connecting to the Oak Leaf bicycle trail, which leads to the lakefront.
Four bridges over the walkway have been built, to allow for pedestrian traffic to cross between the buildings.
The Kenilworth building was built in 1914 as a Ford Model T plant and was expanded in 1942. It was converted into an ammunition plant during World War II and was given to UWM by the federal government in 1971.
The building was used primarily as a storage facility before work started on the project in February.
Weas Development Co., a Milwaukee development firm, is spearheading the redevelopment of the Kenilworth building. Hammel, Green and Abrahamson (HGA) Inc.’s Milwaukee office is performing architectural and engineering services, and Milwaukee-based KBS Construction is the general contractor and construction manager.
The project is a partnership between the UW system, the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Development Corp. and Weas Development.
This is the first time the UW system has involved a private developer with one of its redevelopment projects, said Weas Development Co. partner Scott Weas.
Once the demolition phase of the project is complete, separate construction crews will work in each of the divided buildings, Weas said.
"Because we had one building that we were cutting in half, we’re managing the project almost as two separate construction projects," he said. "We have a lot to do in a short amount of time, and this allows us the freedom to focus in on the buildings."
The Kenilworth project is being paid for with money borrowed by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee, which will issue bonds to pay for the redevelopment of the building. In turn, UWM will lease space back from the Redevelopment Authority, and Weas Development will sub-lease space.
The leases will be used to repay bonds taken out by the Redevelopment Authority, Weas said. The financial structure of the deal is complex, but it was necessary, he said.
"The lower interest rates (that the Redevelopment Authority was able to get) made the project viable," he said. "And the rents generated by the retail and student housing will be used to pay off the bonds."
Demolition continues at the site, according to d’Andre Willis, associate vice president with HGA Inc.’s Milwaukee office.
"We started from the top down," Willis said. "They cut all of the openings for elevators and ceilings. And they took out a ton of conduit. It’s quite cleaned up. It was a mess."
Design elements of the building’s industrial and warehouse structure can be incorporated into its new use, Willis said.
"Working with the existing frame presents restraints, but not ones that are impossible to deal with," she said. "The building is pretty well-suited for this. Reusing a warehouse for these functions is a good thing."
Weas Development also plans to build a seven-story, 50,000-square-foot condominium building with 20 to 25 units to the south of the east building. Plans for the condo building are in a pre-design and market analysis phase, Weas said.
"We’ve got to make sure it’s a viable project," he said.
The $5 million to $6 million condo project would be financed with private funds.

July 22, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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