From the inside, Bryant & Stratton College's new Wauwatosa campus looks so much like a professional office building, some may find it hard to believe it was once a light manufacturing facility.
From the outside, the brick-covered building always looked different from most industrial buildings.
Bryant & Stratton College opened the campus, its second in the Milwaukee area, this semester in the former Empire Level Manufacturing Co. building at 10950 W. Potter Road in Wauwatosa.
The college recently hosted a celebration for both the150th anniversary of Bryant & Stratton College and the opening of the Wauwatosa campus.
Bryant & Stratton has 200 students at the Wauwatosa campus and 600 students at its downtown Milwaukee campus at the Reuss Federal Plaza, 310 W. Wisconsin Ave.
"By next year, we'll have about 400 students (at the Wauwatosa campus," said Peter J. Pavone, director of the Milwaukee-area colleges for Bryant & Stratton. "At the downtown campus, we were full. I think we will maintain that (enrollment) at a specific level and look to (the Wauwatosa) campus to grow as well."
The Wauwatosa campus occupies about one-third of the 100,000-square-foot former Empire Level building. The rest of the building, constructed in 1980, remains vacant. The building is owned by Underwood Joint Venture.
It only took about two months for construction crews to convert about 33,000 square feet of the former industrial building into a small college campus. Beeler Construction, Inc. of Menomonee Falls was the general contractor, and Welman Architects Inc. of Waukesha was the architect. Contractors were able to use the vacant space in the warehouse to store their equipment during the project.
"They did a great job," Pavone said. 'These people are such professionals. They were able to ascertain our needs and meet them. But their vision was even better than what I expected."
"We had 10 weeks to build out 33,000 square feet, which is a phenomenal feat to be done," said Larry Bretzel, project manager and estimator for Beeler Construction. "We had wonderful sub-contractors. It was a group effort. We all worked together well."
R. G. Keller, principal with Welman Architects, said the former Empire Level building was a good candidate for a redevelopment project, because it does not look like a typical industrial building.
"It is covered entirely in brick, set in the woods in a non-industrial area," he said. "This one was almost an anomaly in the marketplace."
College officials wanted to create a professional atmosphere for their students. Several of the rooms include large glass hallway windows and glass doors, which would fit right in a class A office space.
"Professional, that's the word we pushed," said Greg Brander, associate campus director for Bryant & Stratton in the Milwaukee market. "We wanted to set the example for the students with a professional setting."
"We wanted a design in which students would be excited to come here," Pavone said.
The former Empire Building had about 10,000 square feet of office space, and the rest was like a vacant warehouse. That provided a clean slate for the redevelopment project, Keller said.
"The buildings really was an open box," he said. "Just a big, open warehouse. You could do whatever you wanted with it."
The college wanted the campus wired for state of the art computer work stations. Several of the classrooms have desks with computers built inside of them. Students can flip their desktops to use a computer. That setup maximizes space efficiently by not having computers that take up a large amount of desk space when not in use.
In a hallway near the campus entrance, students pass a television monitor, where they can catch up on the latest news. The monitor also will used as a message board.
The teacher work stations in those rooms allow instructors to project anything from their computer onto a screen for teaching purposes.
The school is starting a nursing degree. Students can enroll in the new degree program in January. The Wauwatosa campus has an 800-square-foot medical lab and 1,400-square-foot nursing lab.
Once the Wauwatosa campus reaches about 400 students, as is expected next year, it will be near capacity. Pavone said he has thought about possible sites for opening other campuses in the Milwaukee, but declined to discuss those plans further.
In the meantime, Bryant & Stratton officials say the Wauwatosa campus is an ideal expansion in the Milwaukee market, and several Bryant & Stratton students live or work in that area.
"We had looked at various locations," Pavone said. "This just had a nice feel to it with the woods. It's away from the really busy street. People will find us."
Bryant & Stratton College Wauwatosa campus
Address: 10950 W. Potter Road
Size: 33,000 square feet
Number of students: 200
Web page: www.bryantstratton.edu
October 29, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI