A spattering of rain turned into a deluge as I cycled from downtown Milwaukee to The Brewery, the former Pabst brewing plant a few blocks from downtown, to meet Dennis Stapleton, an architect with KM Development Company. Dennis hurried us into the Zilber School of Public Health, a new building recently opened within the complex, where he had a conference room reserved so we could meet indoors. Dennis is a planner every respect of the word.
The Pabst Brewery traces its lineage back to 1844, with Best and Company Brewery. In 1868 the owner’s daughter married Frederick Pabst who grew the brewery into the largest beer manufacturer in the country. Pabst won the Blue Ribbon at the 1896 World’s fair, and ever since was known as ‘Pabst Blue Ribbon’. The brewery remained in the family until 1985, when it was sold to outside investors, who eventually closed the entire operation in 1995.
The ten-block area stood vacant for ten years while redevelopment schemes rose and fell until Joe Zilber, a Milwaukee real estate developer, approached the city with a mixed-use proposal. During the past ten years The Brewery has evolved from concept to reality. Fifteen of the original thirty-three buildings have been saved and a variety of new buildings and open spaces are infilling the site.
Dennis has been involved since the project’s conception. KM Development Corporation facilitated eco-charrettes early on with representatives of the city, the public, and the developer, from which they created a master plan concept that guides individual building design and construction. The result is a project that has earned the highest level of accreditation, platinum, for neighborhood development, under the U.S. Green Building Council LEED program. Major components of the development strategy include:
– Brownfield Development
– Historic Preservation
– Mixed use
– Storm water management
– Het Island reduction
– Enhanced density (72 dwelling units per acre)
– Public transit access
– Construction waste management
The rain abated. Dennis and I were able to walk the site, where he could show me some of the outstanding sustainability features. Most evident is the storm water management system, whereby a series of filters and swales tempers storm water discharge, an ongoing challenge in Milwaukee. Since a large storm just passed, we were able to see first hand how runoff was absorbed into the site instead of flowing away, as it would on hard surfaces.
How will we live tomorrow?
“There’s a level of consciousness and commitment in the design and construction professions that gets us closer to sustainability every year. The next generation deserves what we’ve had: clean water and clean air.
“We did an outstanding job here considering the condition of the buildings and the variety of uses in the former brewery. We have created diverse uses in this place that are sustainable.”