Architect: Kahler Slater
Owner: SR Mills
Contractor: Tri-North Builders
The rehabilitation of the Button Block building in downtown Milwaukee transformed the largely vacant, 1892 Romanesque Revival-style building into a 94-room extended stay Homewood Suites by Hilton. Completed in late 2017, the project breathes new life into the iconic, seven-story building at North Water and East Clybourn Streets. The 73,000+ sf rehabilitation features a lower-level fitness and aquatic area, first-floor lounge, lobby, food and beverage facilities, and six floors of guest suites. Project financing utilized State and Federal Preservation Tax Incentives, as well as tax-incremental financing (TIF) for infrastructure improvements.
Central to the TIF was the design of a vehicular drop-off and pedestrian entry plaza on the adjacent vacant north lot. City officials desired a continuation of the street-level elevation along Water Street. The design solution reinforces historic elevation datum lines, materiality and hierarchy with a contemporary industrial aesthetic. The board-form base of the concrete piers is a nod to the rusticated sandstone base of the building. The new entrance is framed by a composite metal panel rainscreen and point-supported glass canopy, standing in stark contrast to the weeping mortar and cream city brick of the historic former party wall.
While the expression of historic materials was not consistent with prototypical hotel finishes, it nonetheless provided for a design concept rooted in context. By exposing heavy timber framing, hardwood flooring, cream-city brick, red sandstone, and steel and iron, the design team was able to complement and contrast this raw materiality with a refined, contemporary industrial aesthetic.
A significant project constraint included accommodating both hotel flag standards and Federal Standards for Rehabilitation.
Structural constraints required equally creative solutions. The existing structural grid and center brick bearing wall posed significant challenges in laying out “typical” guest room types and means of egress components. These challenges resulted in multiple unique room layouts. The center bearing wall became a focal point of the design with exposed cream-city brick, arched openings and re-purposed steel fire doors.
Photos: Peter McCullough