Elkhorn developer renovating downtown building
(Published Jan. 30, 2007, 11:38 a.m.)
Preserving a piece of Fort Atkinson's rich heritage is a heavy burden to bear, but local businessman Dave R. Young is up for the challenge.
The VyMac Properties LLP owner recently enlisted the project of renovating the masonry and brick building that once housed the Creamery Package Manufacturing Company, a company whose roots in Fort Atkinson date back to 1890.
According to a news release, Young, an Elkhorn resident, will restore the registered State Historical Society downtown building at the northwest corner of Highway 12 and Sherman Avenue.
The first floor houses a lobby area and will also be the new home to local franchise Verlo Mattress Factory Stores. Verlo of Whitewater relocated to Fort Atkinson in fall of 2006.
The property was first developed in the 1800s by Cornish, Curtis and Green, and was used as a manufacturing site for wooden silos and wooden butter churns. The Chicago-based Creamery Package Manufacturing Company later purchased the property. In the early 1920s, the current five-story building was erected on the site.
Over the next 80+ years, the building changed hands several more times, but has always redeemed its manufacturing veneer. The last occupants of the property built food and milk processing equipment.
Until four years ago, the property was active on four of the five floors. The highest floor, the fifth floor of the building, had been unoccupied since the early 1950s. Since the building was erected as a manufacturing facility, there was not an obvious style or feel to the building, but Young views it differently.
"I get a real feel for the quality and excitement this project must have brought for the original developers," Young said. "There was not much done in the way of caring for the building over the 80 years or so it existed, but she speaks to me now, and I like what she has to say. Once we peeled back the years of partitions, drop ceilings and paint, we began to uncover a wonderful industrial-designed structure. The replacement of all windows, replicating the original windows, over 100+ openings was the turning point. So much was done in those days in the craftsmanship and design that the original structure now speaks volumes about the building's potential."
VyMaC Properties LLP has retained the Design Alliance, a local Fort Atkinson-based firm for architectural and design services, for the historic renovation project, which is already in its initial stages. With almost 100,000 square feet of space, the building will house a mix of retail and office spaces. In fact, the 15,000-square-foot fifth floor is being prepared for one company's corporate office spaces, combining regional and disconnected offices into one congruent space. Currently the fifth floor is being primed with an expectant move-in date sometime next month.
"We are very excited to have brought this retail presence to the downtown marketplace," added Young.
Opportunity awaits for the right retailer or office tenant for other floors in the building as well. A 100-foot-by-20-foot mezzanine exists on the third floor. This mezzanine accommodated overhead cranes in the building's original design. From the stunning views to the special space created by the balcony effect, the building offers enormous rewards.
"I am looking forward to working with the right tenant for this space," Young said.
Additionally, the fourth floor is open for development and envelops some 15,000 square feet wrapped in glass almost from floor to ceiling.
New mechanicals and electrical systems will be installed throughout the building. Deterioration of these systems was partly responsible for the building's use over the past years.
Plans for a glass-backed elevator offering accessibility to the five floors of the building and rebuilding of the two existing elevators are in the works. Mirroring its roots as a manufacturing facility, one of the existing elevators is a freight elevator capable of moving an automobile up to the fifth floor. The glass-backed elevator will also provide spectacular views of Main Street and the river.
Young said the demolition and preparation that has gone into this labor of love is immense.
"We are so pleased to have the time and expertise to assemble the right people for the tasks. The ability to take the building back to its very foundation, repair the damaged areas and proceed with the latest technologies, while remaining true to the building's heritage, has been truly rewarding," Young said.
Along with newly created office and retail space, a private parking area has been created to accommodate over 50 vehicles with an additional 20-car interior-parking garage with private access to the elevator system. There are several common areas planned for the building including an outdoor courtyard and loading docks with freight elevator access.
Renovation extends to the second piece of the building, referred to as the North Building. This all Cream City brick building lends itself to a warehouse building but again wrapped in glass.
"The North Building would be an excellent single-tenant opportunity for a restaurant or a brew pub," Young said. "It has separate entrances and is of course, ADA compliant. I am also in discussions with one retailer who would like to use this space as a warehouse for a retail location he is considering in the main building."
Young concluded by saying there are many opportunities for a project of this scope and scale.
"The real challenges, however, are picking the right tenants to ensure strong stewardship of the property we have worked so hard to bring back to its former glory. There will be great tenants in a great building when we are done here," Young said. "Anyone seeking a drop ceiling and the hum of fluorescents overhead should look for space elsewhere."
For more information about the Creamery Building, contact Dave Young at 473-8957 ext. 116 or Julie Henningfield at 473-8957 ext. 210. Feel free to also visit www.creamerybuilding.com.