WAUKESHA - A decades-old building at the Waukesha
County Museum is getting a stay of execution.
The Waukesha Landmarks Commission voted Wednesday
to rescind a previously approved Certificate of Appropriateness
that authorized the demolition of the 1938 connector building at
The commission then issued a second vote - this
time in favor of a new COA giving conditional approval to
revised plans with the intent of folding the building into other
development as a portion of the site is turned into high-end
Gene Guskowski, an architect with AG
Architecture, said as the design process wore on, he and
developer Alan Huelsman came to realize that tearing down a
building just to replace it with another wasn’t making sense.
The connector building was initially slated to
come down to allow for more parking space below the museum.
Instead, they worked together to create parking spaces around
the building’s current structure.
“The bones of the 1938 building, most of the 1938
building, make a lot of sense and we can make an adaptive
reuse,” Guskowski said Wednesday.
The project will go before the city’s Plan
Commission next week. But Landmarks Commissioner Andrea Nemecek,
who made the motion to approve the COA Wednesday, made sure
changes to jail windows, the museum’s south entry way, or the
building’s glass or stone exterior would come back before this
commission for further approval.
As part of the project proposal, the Waukesha
County Museum would sell the property at 101 W. Main St. to
Huelsman’s development company, Historic Prairieview Limited.
The museum would need to consolidate into the
first two floors of the original Waukesha County Courthouse, and
the third floor will be renovated into a banquet and wedding
facility featuring a fully restored 1893 courtroom.
Some community members, including Mary Emery,
president of Waukesha Preservation Alliance, opposed demolishing
the 1938 connector building, citing its historical significance.
On Wednesday, she expressed her delight with the
“This is wonderful that the ‘38 connector is
being kept,” she said. “I like the design overall ... It’s very
nice. I am very pleased.”
A piece of the building that used to serve as a
jail - but not the original 1885 jail, which will be turned into
apartments - will be razed and replaced by new construction.
One floor of the project has also been eliminated
in the new proposal, making it a four-level building. The total
number of units has also been reduced from 41 to 32.
“I think,” Guskowski said, “it’s a win-win for
the community, the museum itself and the potential residents
that would help enliven downtown Waukesha.”