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Milwaukee’s green oasis

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Photos submitted by Image Studios, Appleton

Photos submitted by Image Studios, Appleton

Photos submitted by Image Studios, Appleton

Photos submitted by Image Studios, Appleton

Pamela and Hermann Viets Field

The Milwaukee School of Engineering has filled the empty footprint of an old freeway with a one-of-a-kind, energy-efficient combination of parking, retail and athletic space.

“It’s a green oasis among all the gray of the city; a bright spot,” said Jon Jansen, project executive with Hunzinger Construction Co., which oversaw the project.

Built atop a three-story parking garage and lit exclusively with LED lights – the only competitive athletic field with an all-LED lighting system in the country – Pamela and Hermann Viets Field lies in the old path of the Park East Freeway, a blighted property left vacant for 10 years after demolition.

The complex, which includes 780 parking spaces and about 12,000 square feet of retail space with ground-level public parking, is home to the school’s soccer, lacrosse, rugby and youth sports teams.

But transforming the property was more than an athletic opportunity for MSOE.

“We were in a difficult position,” said Dr. Hermann Viets, the field’s co-namesake and school president. “We didn’t have enough parking for our students, faculty and staff. So, for us, this was not just an exercise in fixing a problem for the lay of the land, but also an exercise in fixing a very serious problem that we had.”

Getting the land for the project involved months of negotiations with city and county officials, as well as members of M&I Bank, all previous owners of the parcel.

The retail space was included partly as a means of satisfying the city. And the school dedicated 200 parking spaces to the bank, now known as BMO Harris.

Taming the terrain was another challenge.

Crews cleared parts of old foundation walls, the freeway sewer system and buried abutments to make way for the in-ground garage hybrid, which was built into the side of a hill because of a 20-foot slope on the property.

Then they had to deal with groundwater.

“The soil was just kind of mushy,” Jansen said, “because it’s old river bottom.”

Crews laid about 24 inches of hand-sized tunnel rock and a geo-grid system, basically floating the lower level on a structural stone mat to keep it in place.

The hard work paid off. The project’s synthetic field now is expected to save an estimated 1 million gallons of water each year.

“It also cleaned up a pollution problem in the area at no expense to the city,” Viets said. “And it’s absolutely unique for downtown.”

project-essentials

Location: Milwaukee

Project size: 437,448 square feet

Project cost: $30 million

Start date: May 4, 2012

Completion date: Aug. 23, 2013

Submitting companies: Milwaukee School of Engineering, Milwaukee; Hunzinger Construction Co., Brookfield

General contractor: Hunzinger Construction Co.

Architect: Uihlein/Wilson Architects Inc., Milwaukee

Engineers: Giles Engineering Associates Inc., Waukesha (material testing, concrete, steel, welding); Thunderbird Engineering Inc., Madison (plumbing, HVAC, fire protection); Arnold & O’Sheridan Inc., Madison (structural); Kapur & Associates Inc., Milwaukee (civil, storm water, landscape)

Owner: Milwaukee School of Engineering

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UipIylB9kA

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