Work to deconstruct two prominent buildings on Wauwatosa's historic Eschweiler site began last week.

The buildings were designed more than 100 years ago by Alexander Eschweiler for the Milwaukee County School of Agriculture and Domestic Economy on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Innovation Campus development, east of Highway 45 and north of West Watertown Plank Road.

Deconstruction of the school's dairy and dormitory buildings will take place over a several-week process, to transform the lots into an off-leash dog park and walled gardens, said Phil Aiello, senior vice president of development for Milwaukee-based Mandel Group, which has constructed 188 luxury apartments on the site.

Demolition crews will take their time with the process, as walled gardens will be built, preserving between six and 10 feet of original building wall around the garden's perimeter. Seating areas and an accessible ramp are also included in the designs, Aiello said.

Construction also will include an off-leash dog park for use by both residents and community members, Aiello said. A walkway made from crushed stone will be created, in addition to a new lawn. Exact design concepts have not been released but Mandel Group made tentative renderings available.

Aiello has said it wasn't financially feasible for the group to use those Eschweiler buildings, which have extensive structural issues.

Developers are nearing completion of renovation work on the remaining administration building, which has been turned into an apartment leasing office and also features fitness rooms and a large ballroom for weddings or conferences.

The engineering building, which is the smallest of all the Eschweiler buildings, could soon be purchased by a third party, said Aiello. The party hopes to convert it into a single-family residence once the purchase is finalized.

About the buildings

The buildings were constructed in 1912 and are made of dark red bricks in Tudor Revival style, with red clay tile roofs, gables and wood windows. After the agriculture school closed in 1928, the buildings were used as part of a county-run orphanage, and later rented by private medical companies before they were boarded up.

Vacant for at least eight years, the buildings had degraded with water damage, crumbling walls and broken glass.

An affiliate of Mandel Group purchased the 8.5 acres of land for $4 million in 2014. A project to build the Echelon apartments — 188 luxury apartment units in six three-story buildings — began later that year.

Aiello said approximately 115 of the 188 apartments have been leased so far.

"We're seeing that the vast majority of residents are coming from outside the Wauwatosa area," Aiello said. "We're seeing that about 15 percent are coming from Wauwatosa."

He added about 50 percent of Echelon apartment renters are coming from metro Milwaukee and about 25 percent are coming from out of state.

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