Work began just after the Fourth of July on cleaning up a contaminated site near the Schoonmaker Reef, north of the Grede Foundry on State Street, to make way for a 180-unit apartment complex called The Reef.
Because of the scope of the project, the Wauwatosa Plan Commission approved a request July 7 to divide the campus into two parcels. Stewart Wangard, with Tosa Reef, said the developer is working with two different banks, each financing one parcel, in order to cover the full $24 million cost.
Wangard said construction will begin in the next several weeks, even while cleanup work continues, with buildings opening up in stages as they become safe. If weather cooperates, Wangard said the first building is tracked to open in eight months, with the full project opening in 14 months.
"It's been a long time coming," Wangard said. "This is going to have a major impact, a really positive impact."
The 9.4-acre site, at 1215 N. 62nd St., is the former location of Western Metal Specialty and has been vacant for years. Two previous projects proposed for the site beginning in 2006 failed to materialize.
Environmental remediation at the site, including soil treatment and excavation, will be a community effort, with city and state assistance. It has been found to be contaminated with lead, hydraulic oils, chlorinated solvents and likely petroleum.
Mark Maley, spokesman for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, said the state agency approved a $700,000 grant for the cleanup June 24. The budget for environmental work also includes about $1.1 million from the city of Wauwatosa through tax-incremental financing, and $460,000 from Tosa Reef.
Maley said the WEDC hopes the development will spur economic activity in the area.
"It's a big hole in the city. It's been abandoned and it's just become an eye sore," Maley said. "We're turning an eyesore into something positive for that community."
The Reef will include four two-story, 18-unit buildings in the middle of the property, and two four-story, L-shaped buildings in the northeast and northwest corners with 63 and 45 units respectively. There will be a clubhouse at the entrance with a pool and fire pit, and a dog park on the southern part of the site.
Wangard said he has already been hearing from people looking to move in.
"The Wauwatosa area is one of the most desirable in metropolitan Milwaukee," Wangard said. "There's a dynamic business environment, wonderful resources and great recreational amenities nearby."
North of the property, the Schoonmaker Reef will be preserved. Wangard said it will be enclosed and available for study by school groups and scientists who request access. About 425 million years old, the reef has hundreds of fossils of ancient species, such as trilobites and cephalopods.
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