Miller Compromises on Gettelman Brewery
MillerCoors only wants to demolish half of historic complex after community push back.
All of the remaining unrenovated Gettelman Brewery buildings may be razed, save a single building, depending on how the Common Council votes at its next meeting.
Representatives from MillerCoors went before the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee Tuesday appealing a permanent historic designation given to the Gettelman Brewery buildings that sit at 4400 W. State St. in the middle of a MillerCoors parking lot.
The company offered a compromise to total demolition. They asked for a historic designation of the original farmhouse building the Gettelman family lived in as early as 1856, not including the 1940’s era addition, and that the rest be left undesignated. They plan to move the farmhouse across W. State St. to a spot near the visitor center and raze the rest.
The company argued that leaving the structure as is would be an economic hardship to the company. That hardship, they argue, is the loss of potential parking spots on land where the brewery sits. The city’s historic preservation ordinance does not allow members of the Historic Preservation Commission to consider economic hardship in their designation, but the Common Council can.
The committee amended the file and passed the compromise, 4-1. Ald. Nik Kovac was the lone holdout. Kovac said, “I don’t think I’ve seen a worse case made for economic hardship.” Adding that, “The hardship is employee convenience.”
The Historic Preservation Commission designated the buildings as historic in May, a decision MillerCoors was appealing to the zoning committee. Carlen Hatala, the senior planner on the city’s historic preservation staff, spent nearly 30 minutes laying out the case for the historic designation again Tuesday. Fritz Gettelman, who became president of the brewery in 1929, invented a number of innovations in the home, including a steam brush bottle washer, glass lined storage container, ice cutter and farm tillage machine.
MillerCoors argued that the buildings took up a space roughly equivalent to 70 parking spots for employees and “with the employment needs,” they need those spots, said Brian Randall, an attorney representing the company.
“The company does not relish taking down buildings,” Randall said. “But, in this instance, it’s a necessary part of the project that we just described to you.”
The company has adaptively reused three other former Gettelman buildings as a fitness center, company store and warehouse. Miller Brewing acquired the neighboring Gettelman in 1961.
Kovac said he appreciated the company was willing to offer a compromise but questioned why they didn’t go through the appropriate procedural channels. Specifically, why didn’t they submit their application for Certificate of Approval on this compromise to the historic preservation experts on the Historic Preservation Commission.
“Why would you not at least want the experts to give us a recommendation on the nuances of a complicated proposal?” Kovac asked.
Randall said moving the malthouse and the office addition is not feasible and they would like to proceed with the demolition process on those buildings.
“So you want to hurry up and demolish the buildings that the farmhouse is attached to,” Kovac said. “And then ask if you can move the farmhouse.”
Ald. Michael Murphy, the alderman for the area, weighed in and threw his support behind the compromise. “They’re committed to the community and they employ a great many people in our city,” he said.
Ald. Stamper said MillerCoors is “a prominent company in my district.” And supported the firm’s new proposal saying, “I think the compromise is a good one, especially with the presentation they laid out today.” Most of MillerCoors Milwaukee brewery lies in Stamper’s district, while the Gettelman buildings and a few other parcels are in Murphy’s.
“I couldn’t object more vociferously to, to the amendment,” Kovac said. “But, given the wisdom of my colleagues, I’ll take what we can get.”
More about the Gettelman Brewery Buildings
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Passes Gettelman Deal That Will Save One Building, Demolish Others - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 27th, 2017
- Miller Compromises on Gettelman Brewery - Graham Kilmer - Sep 21st, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Gettelman Buildings Saved for Now - Jeramey Jannene - May 16th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Gettelman Brewery Buildings Saved - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 25th, 2017
- Op Ed: Save the Gettelman Brewery Buildings - Leonard P. Jurgensen - Apr 20th, 2017