Cornerstone connects villiages through joint effort
By Susan Suleski
It took two villages to raise The Cornerstone on Oakland Avenue.
But the 70,140-square-foot retail and residential project still couldn’t have happened without a developer who saw the value of compromise between Shorewood and Whitefish Bay. The blighted property, which used to be home to a gas station, was in both villages.
So Shorewood native and developer Blair Williams, the president of WiRED Properties, worked with the villages to get their boundaries redrawn and shift the entire property into Shorewood.
“Shorewood had a master plan,” he said, “and this was a priority redevelopment site for them.”
The deal also required residents in both villages sign off on architect Engberg Anderson Inc.’s final design. With approval in hand, the project team began construction in December 2009.
“(Cornerstone) anchors the villages and brought some new life to that edge of town,” said Mark Ernst, partner at Engberg Anderson.
The completed project includes 24 luxury apartments on the three upper floors and 11,500 square feet of retail space at street level. Cornerstone businesses include Alterra Coffee, Thief Wine Shop & Bar and North Star American Bistro.
“The retail is consistent with the residential,” Williams said, “so you’ve got brands utilized by residents.”
Ernst, who lived in Shorewood during his college years, said the building fits in with the architecture in the neighborhood with “careful detailing above the street level with balconies that don’t intrude.”
In addition, he said, there is a courtyard so retailers have an option of outdoor seating.
“It’s quite a lively place to live,” Ernst said. “You’re creating places for people. The whole phenomenon of the coffee shop is that it creates a place for people to gather and talk.”
But the project’s effect on the area should extend beyond the actual building, Williams said.
“We have dramatically transformed this end of Shorewood,” he said. “It will become one of the most dynamic neighborhoods in the Milwaukee area. It changes how people who live here are engaging in their community.”
Across the street from The Cornerstone, WiRED Properties is building another project, which is scheduled for completion in summer. For Williams, who grew up about two blocks from the area, developing in Shorewood is like coming home.
“When we were building Cornerstone and I was up on the roof,” he said, “I could see the house I grew up in.”
— Susan Suleski