By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 12, 2022 at 10:26 AM

With its new $285 million campus now open on a former brownfield in the Harbor District, preparations are underway for Komatsu Mining to completely vacate its old digs on Miller Park Way and National Avenue.

That site in West Milwaukee is being considered for redevelopment, potentially into a baseball-related “Beer District,” to complement nearby American Family Field.

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As part of the vacating, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore’s Deconstruction Services team was on site last week to pull out any reusable items. Those items will go to ReStore’s retail outlets so that they can have a new life, instead of ending up in landfills.

According to Habitat’s Jodee Benavides, volunteers have already invested more than 140 hours salvaging everything from chairs to desks to refrigerators to wall hangings and more from six of the campus’ 44 buildings.

Proceeds from the sales at the three Milwaukee County ReStore locations help fund Habitat’s efforts at building and rehabilitating housing for families in need in Milwaukee.

“For more than a decade, Komatsu and its employees have been helping local families build safe, affordable Habitat homes,” says Benavides. “At a time when the need for affordable housing is so immense, these donations are going to make their impact go even further.”

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As Komatsu vacates more of the remaining buildings on the site – which was home to Pawling & Harnischfeger (P&H)/Joy Global – ReStore will go in those, too, to see what it can savage for reuse.

We’ve followed ReStore’s team as it has done similar work at the Bradley Center, the Sisters of St. Francis facility, a 1928 Richard Philipp-designed lakefront mansion and Vilter Manufacturing before those structures were demolished.

In this story you can read about where some items from a razed 1927 Eschweiler-designed lakefront mansion found a new home.

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“Our National Avenue location has so much history and we are glad to be able to share that with the community while continuing our support of Milwaukee Habitat’s outstanding work across Milwaukee neighborhoods – from Washington Park to Harambee, and beyond,” says John Koetz, president of surface mining at Komatsu Mining.

“The National Avenue site was our home for more than a century, and we want to see that neighborhood continue to thrive long after our work there concludes.  And we are thrilled to remain part of the Milwaukee community and a Habitat partner.”

According to Habitat’s Jake Brandt, the first phase of the project at the site, which dates back to the early years of the 20th century, was completed last week.

“The next time we get out there is undetermined as it’s based on the progress of their move,” he says.

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According to a Habitat release, the items salvaged are being donated by Komatsu, which has sponsored the construction of 29 homes for Habitat over the past 11 years. Workers from the company have also volunteered nearly 4,000 hours to help on those construction projects.

Over the past decade, Habitat’s Deconstruction Services has saved more than $4 million worth of stuff from going into landfills.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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.