Michael Horne
House Confidential

Coach Wojo’s Mequon Manse

Will the Marquette Golden Eagles basketball coach bring some life to his new suburban neighborhood? One can only hope.

By - Nov 4th, 2014 01:56 pm
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Steve Wojciechowski's House. Photo by Michael Horne.

Steve Wojciechowski’s House. Photo by Michael Horne.

Decades ago, the forward-looking trustees of what was then Columbia Hospital purchased 60 or so acres of rather damp farmland on the southern border of Mequon for possible future use as an expansion site.

The property was located just across County Line Road from a River Hills parcel the trustees of University School of Milwaukee had purchased for its campus relocation, announced September 8th, 1963.

Whereas the USM campus was eventually built, the Columbia parcel was not fated to be the site of a medical center for a number of reasons, including lack of a bridge across the Milwaukee River and other considerations such as the rapid growth of southeast Mequon and northeast River Hills as wealthy bedroom communities. It’s one thing to have school bells chiming in the background; quite another to have ambulances flying down the streets of suburbia with their sirens blaring and lights flashing.

And, having the Flight for Life helicopter make its noisy takeoffs and landings so terribly close to the North Shore and Ozaukee Country Clubs could really ruin one’s concentration while lining up a difficult putt.

Columbia eventually bought some land further north in Mequon for its barnlike new campus, and the County Line site was deemed surplus to its needs.

Columbia Reserve. Photo by Michael Horne.

Columbia Reserve. Photo by Michael Horne.

The property was sold to developers and subdivided in 1989, when it was given the impressive and historically accurate name of “Columbia Reserve.”

This was to be no ordinary subdivision. Lots were over 2 acres — twice the minimum for Mequon — and numerous deed restrictions dictated such things as minimum square footage, deemed outdoor tennis courts and clotheslines to be inappropriate, and even regulated such things as the pitch of the roofs. (Basketball hoops are O.K.) The 20 vacant, improved lots were offered for $125,000 and more, at a time when that would have bought a fairly decent home, even in Mequon.

The exclusivity was appealing to the marketplace, and over a period of years Columbia Reserve grew, with a number of residences that shared many characteristics of a style that had just been named at the time.

They called them “McMansions.”

Of the 20 homes built in Columbia Reserve, there is just one of genuine architectural merit (at the very north end), and two that, while derivative, maintain some architectural integrity. (The second from the north end shows some elements of Carolina Coastal architecture, and another at the south east end of a cul-de-sac is a modern interpretation of Shingle Style Craftsman.)

The rest, like this week’s House Confidential honoree, are, for better or worse, architectural riffs on common, if not ostentatious, themes.

This one is a contemporary take on the classic American Colonial residence. It is red brick with white trim and strives for the symmetrical. It has wings on either side, and a wing off a wing that houses a garage.

Since July 29, 2014, it has been the home of Marquette University basketball coach, Steven M. Wojciechowski, his wife Lindsay Alder (a nurse practitioner) and their two sons. The 7,945 square foot residence with 5 bedrooms and 5 full and two half-baths sold for $1,325,000. The Wojciechowskis must have had a hurried search to find the home, since he had just been named coach on April 1st. By early August, the family was in full occupancy in time for the coach’s 38th birthday on August 11. Part of the duties of a coach is to entertain, it seems, and on one summer day several Marquette University team vans were parked in the home’s driveway while expensive SUVs with Marquette Basketball stickers and out-of-state license plates parked on the street.

Like its neighbors, the Wojo home is traditionally and commercially landscaped and maintained. The developer inexplicably lined the streets with Silver Maples (Acer Saccharinum), a rather poor choice, and a tree many prudent landscapers eliminate at first sight. The street winds gently and has a little dead end cul de sac to the east. It connects County Line to the rest of the Mequon world with its northerly and easterly connections with Grasslyn Lane and Fiesta Lane, respectively.

I grew up on Fiesta Lane in an old farmhouse which is still in the family, and my teenage years often found me at refuge in the pre-developed Columbia Reserve. The hospital had landscaped the former cornfield with clumps of conifers and the occasional shrub, and crews would cut the grasses a couple of times a year. Things were much drier then, and a passerby could be startled by the sounds of the nesting pheasants taking off at one’s approach. I watched as Dutch Elm disease killed the few remaining trees here, and then watched as the trees decayed into the earth.

Just to the north of Columbia Reserve is the Grasslyn Nature Preserve, a City of Mequon park that was set aside during the development of the adjacent Whitman Place, one of the city’s earliest and largest of side-by-side condos. Both Columbia Reserve and Grasslyn lie due east of N. Range Line Rd., and feature some ponds and small drainage streams. Just a couple of hundred feet to the west, the land drains to the Milwaukee River, but at Columbia Reserve the water flows east, straight into Lake Michigan, via a series of ravines that have their imperceptible origins here. When the streams are full, the waters drain right over the street and through yards and gardens.

The development of Columbia Reserve and other parcels in this fragile ecosystem has placed strains on the drainage of the lands downstream. Flooding is no longer uncommon, and the city’s rudimentary storm sewer system is barely equipped to handle the load during the increasingly heavy rains we have been experiencing.

But Columbia Reserve maintains its allure. Here are the houses advertised as “designed for entertaining.” Yet the neighborhood is absolutely desolate during major holidays like the Fourth of July, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know this, because I bicycle by and check. Where are these people? At the homes of relatives with bigger houses?

Another interesting sidelight of Columbia Reserve comes during the occasional real estate open house. A lot of people live in huge houses like this one, but really don’t have any furniture or objets d’art of any particular significance. Garage sales in the subdivision also tend toward the expensive yet useless knick knacks.

So it is nice to see that Coach Wojo has brought the team to his house to meet their backers, perhaps jumpstarting the neighborhood’s potential for hospitality. It has been a long wait.

About Steve Wojciechowski

It was on April 1 that Steve Wojciechowski (pronounced wo-ju-HOW-skee) was introduced as the new coach of the Marquette Golden Eagles, and it was no April Fools joke. Coach Wojo, as he’s often called, brought with him an impressive Duke pedigree, compared to the scruffy-but-more-colorful resume of his predecessor, Buzz Williams.  Wojciechowski had served as associate head coach under the famed coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke University and had assisted the coach since the 1999-2000 season. During these years, the Blue Devils posted an incredible 441-92 record and competed in the NCAA tournament every year and won two NCAA tournament championships. As a player at Duke, Wojciechowski was named the top defensive player in the country his senior year, was a two-time All-ACC choice and honorable mention for All-American. He is ranked eighth at Duke for career steals (203) and eighth for career assists (505)

Wojciechowski also served under Krzyzewski as court coach and scout for the USA Basketball team, leading on-court duties as well as game preparation from 2006-12, including the team’s gold-medal performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. The Olympic teams included NBA greats such as Marquette alumnus Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Wojciechowski is a native of Severna Park, Md., and has been described in the media as “really a Baltimore kid, blue-collar to the bone, son of a Port of Baltimore longshoreman.” Take that, Buzz Williams. Wojo is a first-generation college student, having earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Duke. But ever since high school, at Cardinal Gibbons School in Baltimore, where he played under legendary coach Ray Mullis, Wojo seemed pointed toward basketball’s elite. He was named to the East squad of the 1994 McDonald’s All-American Team and the way to Duke by then seemed clear.

Williams was paid $1.9 million by Marquette. Wojo probably started lower than this, but within a couple years will probably be at that level of compensation.

The Rundown

  • Location: City of Mequon
  • Neighborhood: Southeast Mequon west-of-freeway
  • Subdivision: Columbia Reserve
  • Year Built: 1993
  • Style: Neoeclectic Georgian
  • Size: Over 7,945 square feet
  • Fireplaces: Looks like it.
  • Taxes: $21,260 Paid in Full
  • Assessment: Land $430,000 (exactly the same as O. J. Mayo’s)  [$4.65 / s.f.], Improvements $951,200; Total: $1,381,200.
  • Walk Score: 17 out of 100. “Car Dependent”
  • Transit Score: You could maybe hitch a ride with the Marquette team van when the coach has his next party.
  • Street Smart Walk Score: 17 out of 100. “Car Dependent”

How Milwaukee Is It? The residence is about 12 miles from Milwaukee City Hall and from Marquette home games.

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5 thoughts on “House Confidential: Coach Wojo’s Mequon Manse”

  1. smiler says:

    what’s the deal with these guys? Small penile syndrome?

  2. Sam says:

    Talk about a long winded article that buries the lead.

  3. Bruce says:

    So what is the purpose of this article?
    To beat up on the long gone developers for buying “damp farmland” with potentially poor drainage and trying to market it as an upscale development complete with a long list of building restrictions and poor choice of maple tree; Or is it to moan the loss of the authors boyhood backyard where he apparently wondered the fields and chased wildlife; Or to introduce us to Marquette’s new coach and his family and then beat them up for buying a house big enough to entertain his team and supporters as is an apparent part of his job description: Or is it to beat up and attempt to drag down anyone who can afford a big house in the country and leave us wondering about the author who voyeuristically rides through the neighborhood peeping through the undergrowth in search or high crimes and misdemeanors.
    I mean Really – developers have never been known for their style and savvy; and farmland (both dry and swampy) is being turned into housing everywhere you turn; and if you want to talk about big expensive homes, take a drive down Lake Drive.
    As for Coach Wojo – some of us are very happy to have him.

  4. Tim says:

    Bruce, it’s obvious you care deeply about Coach Wojo and his neighbors… maybe you can buy him a spare sump pump to help with the recent rains. Either that or some cranberry seeds to rectify the poor choice of landscaping.

    Cheers!

  5. Milwaukee County says:

    Just an observation here, I love this section of Urban Milwaukee here comes the butt, But why is every article written in a way to degrade or sneer or snicker at rich people and their homes. Not everyone wants to live in a 900sq/ft home on the east side. If it’s not walkable it’s ripped on, if it’s not a small bungalow the article is very condescending and belittling whoever it is written about. Like no none needs that much house or land and the article seems to chastise the homeowner in this feature. How about just an observation and a look into the house and the neighborhood without sneering and condescension. I can only imagine what it will be like when UM does a feature on Charlie Sykes’s Mequon home.

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