Builders preserve site’s historic trees
To build Newcastle Estates, a $20 million senior living community in Mequon, contractors had to work around some of the area’s oldest inhabitants.
The site is home to a nature conservancy with 90 protected specimen trees, including a 42?½-inch diameter bur oak “picnic tree” and a 20-inch diameter white ash, said John Cronin, senior associate at AG Architecture Inc., Wauwatosa.
“Our goal was to preserve the woods for the residents to use as walking paths,” Cronin said.
In order to protect the specimen trees and wetland areas, the team worked with an arborist, Merton-based Wachtel Tree Science & Service Inc., and an ecologist, Cedarburg Science LLC. The team also collaborated with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff members and environmental consultants to design around the evolving wetland.
“There were more consultants than we’d have on a normal project,” Cronin said. “It slows down the process because there are more players that need to get involved and more reports to write and have approved.”
Further complicating matters, the two types of housing components planned for the site meant two different contractors had to work together on the same project. C.G. Schmidt Inc., Milwaukee, built the 50 independent living apartments and Kings Way Homes LLC, Elm Grove, constructed the 19 single-family homes. The additional living space was phase two of building out the Newcastle Place senior living community.
When builders discovered it would be impossible to connect phase two to the existing buildings due to the numerous site concerns, the team designed a companion campus with amenities such as a high-end restaurant atmosphere with an intimate bar setting to attract a specific population. Such common areas are meant to promote socialization among residents.
Though it complicated the project to have so many different people working on-site, Cronin said, the winning results exemplify how, even with multiple parties involved, significant environmental challenges can be overcome and a project can be successfully completed.
“It’s definitely a learning experience,” Cronin said, adding that the demand will continue for environmentally sensitive developments like Newcastle Estates.
Though they were a challenge to navigate around, the natural elements of the site such as the trees and wetlands provide ample opportunities for residents to enjoy the outdoors and travel among buildings, Cronin said.
“It was a great opportunity and it worked out,” he said. “It’s a really nice community.”