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Progress Report: Alterra Coffee Roasters, Bay View

Since 1994, Alterra has been bringing strong coffee to the folks of the metro-Milwaukee area , and soon Bay Viewers will have one of its cafe’s right in their backyard.

Earlier this month, Alterra Coffee announced that it had changed its plan from renovating an existing building in Bay View to razing it and building a new one.

Plans for the cafe/wholesale bakery changed course after cost estimates escalated for remodeling the former Maritime Savings Bank building (between Kinnickinnic and Howell avenues), the company reports on its website.

Here are some FAQS straight from Alterra’s website:

Hey! What happened? I thought the maritime bank building was going to be renovated, not replaced.

We tried many designs and created budgets with two separate general contractors. Unfortunately, old buildings can be expensive to renovate….especially when you are trying to convert a bank into a bakery and cafe. No matter what we tried, the project was too expensive to do. We finally used our experience in riverwest as a guide, where we tried to force a renovation but ultimately built new. Our Humboldt facility is a great success (architecturally and as a great facility to work in). We fully expect the new facility in bay view to be similarly successful.

I can’t believe knocking a building down and building new is less expensive than renovating an existing structure. That just doesn’t make sense.

It is odd, isn’t it? Perhaps if the original building did not have offices upstairs, frequent structural columns breaking the space, no elevators or fire rated stair towers. Unfortunately, all of these elements were true and created a great deal of expense. In this case, new is less expensive.

You should have spent the money anyway!

And maybe we would have, but the expense was one part….layout was another. We might have suffered the premium to get something great, but the result was actually somewhat hamstrung. The bakery especially suffered. The working space became long and thin, walk-in refrigerators were many steps away from work tables, bathrooms in the basement, etc. It wasn’t just too expensive, it just didn’t work.

What a waste! It’s a good building!

I’ll leave judgments of “good or bad” to others……but waste, we will not. We’re gunning to reuse as much of the material as possible. In fact, some of the inspiration for the new building (see timber frame, joists, wood flooring and decking) came from concepts of what could be reused from the old. We will try to recycle 90% of the building (by weight).

Is the front of the building on Lincoln still going to lack retail?

No! This was a huge one for us. We never liked how the renovation accommodated our retail use. We could not span the entire Lincoln ave. facade without creating the world’s largest cafe. The new building footprint is “pulled in” about 4′ and allows us to fill the Lincoln and KK ave. sides (plus some on Howell) with retail. Plus, the building no longer “encroaches” on the sidewalk the way it did.

Dude, that’s a cool design. Who did it?

At least we hope you think it is cool!! As usual, a collaborative effort between Chris Socha of Kubala Washatco Architects (plus others in their studio), our artist team of Joe and Janice who lost much sleep, and Ward, Paul and I all contributed. We expect to continue to tweak the design and details, since we really had to push to get this done in time for our BOZA submittal.

Wow. What else can this building do?

It has some secrets. You’ll have to come see for yourself in 2011. See you then!

Alterra plans to open the bakery and commissary first, with the cafe hopefully completed by March, 2012.

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Photos Copyright: Alterra Coffee Roasters

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