The change at 175,000-square foot Coakley Brothers headquarters, 400 S. 5th St. in Walker’s Point, after a $6 million renovation, is transformational. Stark, even – in a good way.
Fourteen months after work began to repaint the exterior, replace more than 200 windows and completely overhaul the first and second floors of the building, Coakley opened to guests during Doors Open Milwaukee last weekend and drew more than 2,000 curious Milwaukeeans, who knew exactly where to go, thanks to the installation a year ago of artist Tom Fruin’s multicolored water tower sculpture on the roof.
"Transformation isn’t the right word," says Ben Juech, vice president of Brothers Business Interiors, who gave me a tour before the work began and again last week after it was complete. "It’s not strong enough."
Though I don’t usually ask you to do homework, here I’m going to pause and urge to you to click this link, where you can read the history of the Coakley building and more about the renovations and, even more importantly, see images of what the place looked like before work began.
During the ambitious project, the company – which has about 140 employees – also spent about two months furnishing the entire interior of the new Fiserv Forum in a partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The new design – by Kubala Washatko Architects – has brightened and remade the entire place, transforming old industrial bathrooms, storage areas and other spaces into welcoming offices, meeting rooms, an employee gym, a couple kitchen spaces, a quiet room/nursing space and outdoor areas.
On the north end and on the second floor are Brothers Interiors and West Elm Workspace showrooms.
The run-down parking lot out front, which had included remnants of a disused section of 5th Street was torn up and completely remade. Now, it’s attractively landscaped and also includes subterranean tanks and permeable surfaces to help channel and store stormwater during drenching rains.
It was hard to even imagine how some of these areas could’ve been the same ones I saw when I visited a little over a year ago.
Here are few before and after images taken in (as close as possible) the same locations:
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.