New life for outdated look



This project features full cast stone block, fluted column window frames, 60 pound gargoyles, copper gutters, wrought iron “tree” trellises and faux dormer balcony, bronze reflective privacy windows, concealed lighting, and a unique roof made of recycled tire rubber styled to resemble textured slate.

By giving an old building a facelift, contractor Mark Brick of B&E was awarded the national Contractor of the Year award by the National NARI organization in the category of commercial exterior renovation. Although Brick is no stranger to the honor—he’s won two times before—he still believes that every project gives him an opportunity to learn more about what he
does best.

The award-winning building is a commercial property on Ogden and Humboldt on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side. Brick described the “before” as a 1950s- era building “with no pizzazz or excitement going on.” Granule concrete panels covered the bland face of what was previously a Medical Supply building.

“The new owner really wanted to make a statement with residential interior and commercial exterior setting,” Brick said. “The architectural design was done by Jim Schaffer. We wanted to give the building a sophisticated new look. In the process, we encountered a few surprises.”

Brick found that the outside was about one and a half inches out of level. One of the walls was higher than the roof. All of the windows leaked and the process required gas and electric lines to be dug up and moved.

“There was a double layer of concrete for the floor that was about five inches thick,” Brick said. “We had to break it up to run electrical.”

But for Brick, the learning experience came with the facelift to the exterior.

“Thanks to the owner, we were able to give that sophisticated look,” Brick said. “We worked with cut stones on the exterior fašade, added gargoyles, coverings over the windows, fluted casings around the windows and concrete sills. We put up a Mansford roof with dormers and windows to give a look to the second floor. There are wrought iron railings around the windows, and wrought iron lattices that give more dimension that just a flat look.”

Exterior columns were added with multiple areas of detailed moldings including both crown and dental from the roofline down. Brick said the project required 1000 square feet of interior remodeling to create living quarters.

“It is just an awesome looking building now,” Brick said. “We used refurbished tire treads for the roof that looks like a slate roof. The exterior looks like a piece of art and so does the interior.”

Brick said that the project also afforded him a chance to learn more about working with the types of stones the fašade required.

“I don’t think I ever had to install stones ranging from 70 to 100 pounds before,” he said. “It was totally unique and a lot of surprises, but I’m happy to say no cost overruns.”

Brick thought the building made such a dominant statement, that he submitted the project for regional competition where he competed with contractors from seven other states. After winning the regionals, he went on to the national level. Brick thinks the photos depicting the before, middle and after of the project impressed the NARI judges.

“This was just a totally unusual project,” he said. “It really made a statement. The building now has a very dominant look. I’d describe it as French Provincial look with the Gothic influences seen in the gargoyles and wrought ironwork. It is really sharp looking. NARI has its judging criteria. They look for balance checks and they look at the progress through the pictures. We’re pretty proud of the award because there are no runners up at the national level.”

The project took about eight months to complete. Brick thinks that the style overcame some of the challenges such as the height of the building—it is only a two story building.

“There was just so much we learned from this job,” he said. “It was really a challenge. We think of our business as one that does a quality job no matter what the project is. It really makes us stand out. People recognize that about us and that is where our reputation comes from.”