Inside the nondescript building at 820 E. Wisconsin St., an old factory is being given new life.
The former Bergamot Brass facility is being turned into a 73-unit residential complex with space for a new business, currently named Brass Works Apartments and Brass Works Commercial, respectively.
While the outside of the over 100,000-square-foot building which sits on three city blocks will not change much structurally, it is starting to resemble an apartment building inside.
As of Sept. 18, numerous apartments were already framed out, with mechanicals being installed.
By May 2020, the building should be ready for occupancy, according to its developer, Sig Strautmanis, of General Capital, a real estate firm with offices in Fox Point and in Northbrook, Illinois.
Construction manager Jim Krause said the project involves building the apartments and commercial space inside the exterior of the structure.
It is the type of conversion he sees happening more frequently in urban areas such as Milwaukee’s Third Ward.
“Basically, you have the shell,” he said. “Now, all you do is fill it in.”
There will be one-, two- and three-bedroom, loft-style apartments, with the three-bedroom units having direct access to their apartments from the south of the building.
The units will have exposed ceilings — except in the bathrooms — and there will be two lobbies.
The original wood floors will also be restored.
As for Brass Works Commercial, Strautmanis said it would be ideal to see a café or food business in the over 1,000-square-foot commercial space that will be located at a former loading dock to the building.
However, he said there has been discussion with those who are interested in using it as office space or for a gallery.
Strautmanis became inspired to pursue the project once he visited the property, which is in a part of Delavan surrounded by homes, a tavern, a thrift store and other businesses.
“When we found this site, we were excited that it was nestled in a residential neighborhood close to downtown,” he said. “Once we walked the interior and saw the wide-open spaces and huge industrial windows, we were sold on the project’s potential.”
The $16.3 million project began in 2015, with General Capital securing site control in fall 2016.
The firm purchased the property in December 2018, and soon after, demolition and environmental remediation work commenced.
Brick exterior and the roof were restored, and new historically accurate windows will be installed, along with other historic features.
The project involved working with the city of Delavan, state agencies and the National Park Service.
The city is providing $1.2 million through tax incremental financing.
In June, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation gave the city a $250,000 grant to help finance the project.
“The city of Delavan has been focused on downtown revitalization for several years,” said Delavan Mayor Mel Nieuwenhuis in a June statement about the grant. “Each new project adds to the vibrant fabric of our community.”
With an allocation of housing and historic preservation tax credits secured, General Capital was able to purchase the property in 2018, said Strautmanis.
An industrious past
It may be hard for some to imagine the development at a place where everything from belt buckles to ammunition parts were once manufactured.
In 1943, the George W. Borg Corporation built a facility at 820 E. Wisconsin St.
A third-story addition was constructed in 1956.
Strautmanis said Borg made ammunition components, including detonation fuses.
After the war, the company made numerous innovative products, such as a “deep therapy” X-ray unit used to treat cancer.
The last business to use the building was Bergamot Brass Works, a company which manufactures belt buckles and other metal products.
Bergamot moved to a different facility in Delavan last year, after General Capital acquired 820 E. Wisconsin St.
Those interested in living at Brass Works can call 262-740-1600 or visit brassworksapt.com.