by Dan Rafter
Most developers don’t have to worry about coral reefs that are more than 400 million years old when planning their latest multi-family developments.
Stewart Wangard, though, does, at least with The Reef, the latest residential development taken on by Milwaukee-based Wangard Partners.
The Reef is a 180-unit residential development featuring four two-story 18-unit buildings and two four-story L-shaped buildings that will wrap around the development in the village of Wauwatosa, Wis. But the project is no ordinary one. It also sits north and adjacent to the 425-million-year-old Schoonmaker fossil reef. The Schoonmaker Reef has been named a National Historic Landmark, and is known as the first fossil reef identified within the United States. More than 200 different fossil species have been identified from this particular coral reef.
Wangard, then, is not only worrying about the progress of The Reef, his development, he’s also concentrating on the preservation of the nearby reef under the waters, working closely with the city in order to help protect the Schoonmaker Reef so that the residents of his new development — and anyone visiting the area — can actually enjoy the rather amazing structure.
“I bet most developers haven’t worked that closely with scientists,” said Wangard, chairman and chief executive officer of Wangard Partners. “We have been. The scientists have been working side-by-side with us throughout the development. This is an impressive coral reef. Just to contemplate something that is this old. It pre-dates the time when dinosaurs walked the earth.”
The Reef development is important, too, because it is bringing new life to an underused brownfield site. The site of the multi-family development once housed the Western Metals plant. Before Wangard arrived, the site was considered one of the most blighted slices of land in all of Wauwatosa. When meeting in 2013 with the city’s Budget and Finance Committee, a Wangard employee cited a report from consultant Sigma referring to the land as being in the top 10 percent of the dirtiest sites in the Milwaukee area.
Why, then, is Wangard building here? After all, preserving a 400-million-year-old coral reef and cleaning a contaminated brownfield site are no easy tasks.
Wangard told Midwest Real Estate News that the reason is simple: Wauwatosa is a growing area filled with the kind of residents who will embrace the housing offered by The Reef development.
The Milwaukee County Regional Medical Complex is nearby. And that complex ranks as the top draw of all unique visitors to the state of Wisconsin. The Reef is also located within four blocks of three grocery stores, making the project one that appeals to fans of urban living, those people who would rather walk to stores and restaurants than hop in their cars to drive 40 minutes to find the nearest Meijer.
“For us, it’s all about providing new housing options to communities that need them,” Wangard said. “And Wauwatosa, for all its job growth and employment centers, doesn’t really have much housing like what The Reef will provide. We think the demand will be strong.”
Once built — construction is expected to wrap in October of 2015 — The Reef will include a multi-purpose clubhouse with gourmet kitchen, pool, 24-hour fitness center, dog park, free coffee bar and picnic area with barbeque station and outdoor fireplace.
Construction crews are set to break ground on the project Aug. 5.