Coakley Brothers renovated its headquarters building to draw attention to the company’s design capabilities while at the same time providing employees with a functional workplace.
The result is a new landmark water tower on the Milwaukee skyline.
The Water Tower Building, in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point, serves as the home to Coakley Brothers residential and commercial movers, as well as its furniture and design division, Brothers Business Interiors.
The building dates to 1905, and Coakley Brothers was committed to “resurrecting the turn-of-the-century industrial charm of its space,” said Ben Juech, executive vice president of Brothers Interiors, which was among the companies that worked on the renovation.
The construction project, which began in June 2017, lasted 13 months.
Inside the building, crews exposed original wood beams and trusses, restored the original concrete factory floor and Cream City and Chicago brick and put up nearly 250 replica windows to replace those that had been painted over. An employee gym, wellness room and cafe were also added.
“These changes greatly improved the overall cultural environment,” Juech said. “Designing a space that allowed natural light was in itself a big win for the employees.”
Outside the building, areas for employees were also added: a deck, a courtyard and a pocket park.
But the work that most captured the public imagination was a stained-glass water tower set atop the building in September 2017. The Plexiglas-and-steel sculpture was made by the Brooklyn artist Tom Fruin.
The artwork is hard to miss, said Peggy Coakley, president and chief executive of the 130-year-old Coakley Brothers company. She hopes the public will see the sculpture as a symbol of the company’s pride in the diverse and vibrant residents of the city.
Rocky Marcoux, commissioner of Milwaukee’s Department of City Development, said Coakley’s contributions have indeed been substantial.
“The Coakley family, which has been doing business in this city for decades upon decades upon decades,” he said, “have never stopped investing in this great city of Milwaukee and in every neighborhood where there is a Coakley building.”
To help pay for the building’s $9 million facelift, Coakley Brothers and Kubala Washatko Architects obtained federal and state historic tax credits. Although the tax credits eased the project’s financial difficulties, they also brought design restrictions. Among them was the requirement to preserve the Water Tower’s original concrete floors. Because the flooring didn’t absorb sound well and wasn’t ideal in workspaces, the design team laid out carpets but left concrete exposed in common areas and showrooms.
The renovated building, a blend of old and new, nods both to the company’s history and its aspirations.
Coakley Brothers Water Tower Building
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Project size: 175,000 square feet
Project cost: $9 Million
Start date: June 2017
Completion date: June 2018
Nominator: Brothers Business Interiors
General Contractor: ADK Designs/Brothers Interiors
Architect(s): The Kubala Washatko Architects
Engineer(s): Computerized Structural Design
Owner(s): Coakley Brothers