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Reclaiming Riverland

Written by Judy Krause
    Wednesday, 07 January 2015
Reclaiming Riverland

While some activities outdoors are winding down (at least until there is enough snow to get out on skis or snowshoes), activity has increased on the land situated in the midst of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum. If your plans bring you to the Arboretum this winter (it’s a great place for a walk in any season!), you will see a demolition project underway. This work began in December and will extend until March 2015.

You may remember that last winter Ken announced that we had purchased the property just west of our Riverside Park branch. That land is home to two buildings previously used for manufacturing steel products and as a wool mill. More recently, they were the home of Pieter Godfrey’s materials reclamation business, specializing in brick, stone and wood. Pieter passed away unexpectedly in 2011 and eventually the active use of the property ended. In late 2013 we acquired the property which we now refer to as the Riverland. The warehouse that’s coming down is located on the west end of the property, appears on Sanborn Fire Insurance maps as early as 1894 and is larger than a football field.

I’ve managed multiple building projects over the years, but this is the first time I’ve overseen the taking down of one. I believe it is the appropriate thing to do, but it has been a very difficult decision. You see, I have many memories of lively conversations with Pieter in that building as we collaborated on several projects. I marveled at the way he incorporated the unique wood and artifacts from his work into his living area. He was extremely proud to show off that incredible space.

So why take down the building?

Since Pieter’s death, structural issues have multiplied, causing the warehouse to become unsound. Water damage due to cracked roof panels has destroyed much of what was inside. It is sad to see the current state of this space Pieter was so proud of. The building is too dangerous to keep and too expensive to restore.

However, just as Pieter gave new purpose to old building materials, so too will we. We will salvage Cream City brick, doors, windows, cabinets, railing, lighting and more. Concrete will be crushed for reuse and steel will be recycled. All of this will be documented to verify our contractor is

meeting our recycling goals. And in the spring the area will be planted with native seeds.

We don’t know what the future will hold for this land. It could become additional green space and/or a new structure could be built. But we knew that acquiring the property was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with the community to shape what the future could be, in a way that fits with the surrounding green space. A planning effort will need to occur,

and it could take years for these changes to be seen. It will take resources we don’t yet have.

During construction, access along the driveway to the river will be blocked, but will re-open in the spring. You can still access the river and paths in the Arboretum through the stone arch or Riverside Park. Also, know that other structures, including the east warehouse, will remain and will be a part of the next chapter in the story of this land.

Judy Krause

Judy Krause

Judy Krause, Director of Finance and Operations, has been crunching numbers at the Urban Ecology Center since 2000. She manages the Center’s financial and physical assets and oversees many of our capital projects. Judy has been honored as a United Way of Greater Milwaukee Emerging Leader (2009) and as a 40 under 40 awardee by the Milwaukee Business Journal (2014). Outside of work you’ll find her teaching and studying taekwondo, trying to outwit the slugs in her garden, cooking, playing games and enjoying the outdoors by hiking, backpacking and biking.

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